A Dad in Need: Cancer benefit on Sunday for family of five


This Father’s Day will be unlike any Jess Crocker has had before.

“Usually, it’s just another day,” said Crocker.

On Sunday, June 16, a cancer benefit is being held for the father of three at the Sparta American Legion.

Crocker was diagnosed with stage four rectal cancer in March of last year. The cancer has also spread to his liver, abdomen, and lymph nodes. The diagnosis came around the same time that he and his partner Allyssa Amundson learned that they were expecting.

“We found out it was twins right away at our first ultrasound appointment,” said Amundson. “Jess was there with a blank stare, shocked. And I was nervously laughing like, ‘yup, this is actually happening’.”

Amundson gave birth to twins, Jameson and Maci, in November, which quickly grew the family of three to five. Cash, 4, is the eldest of the siblings.

“It was rocky at the start because Jameson had to have hernia surgery, and after that, three of them had RSV, so they’ve had a rough couple months after the twins were born,” said Allyssa’s mom, Becky.

The benefit’s purpose is to raise money for the family as Crocker has had to miss work for appointments, on top of all the unexpected medical bills that have added up.

“Jess has always done everything for anyone who needed help. I used to tell him he was such a push over but really he just has the biggest heart,” said Amundson. “He still tries to do everything he can to take care of us. He is the strongest person I know.”

Crocker  and Amundson live and work in Tomah. Amundson works full time in the emergency departments of Tomah Health and Mile Bluff, while Crocker works at the Walmart Distribution Center.

Crocker is the son of Karol Crocker. His father Richard and brother Chad have passed away. Chad battled brain cancer for 10 years after given 8 months to live. He was 49.

“He was a heck of a battler,” said Crocker. “I’m looking forward to getting through this and to live a long life.”

Amundson is the daughter of Becky and James Amundson of Cashton.

“We aren’t the type of people who ask for help,” said Amundson. “But this year we have had a lot of struggles and obstacles and we just wanted to take the time to thank everyone. We are forever grateful.”

The cancer benefit will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the American Legion in Sparta, 1116 Angelo Rd. Live auction starts at 3 p.m. Brats and hot dogs will be available for a free will offering. There is also a pie auction, bake sale, and raffles.

If you are interested in volunteering or baking for the bake sale or pie auction, please contact Becky Amundson at (608) 633-3662, James Amundson at (608) 633-4278, or Lori Dickman at (608) 487-0813.

Monetary donations can be made at 1st Community Credit Union in Sparta, Tomah, or West Salem.

Men’s Health Month

It may seem that there’s a day or a month for everything. According to the National Institutes of Health, almost 200 health awareness days, weeks, and months are observed in the United States.

Unofficially, days like National Hamburger Day (May 28) or National Cupcake Lovers Day (June 13) also exist, but aren’t as helpful or effective as Men’s Health Month, which June is known for.

Men’s Health Month is important. Men hate doctors, or so the stereotype goes, and hate may be a strong word, but according to a survey led by the Cleveland Clinic revealed that 72% of men would rather do household chores, like cleaning toilets, than go to the doctor.

In that same survey, 65% of respondents said they avoid going to the doctor as long as possible, 37% revealed that they had withheld information because they weren’t ready to deal with the possible diagnosis, and 20% admitted they aren’t always honest with their doctors about their health.

But why?

“We culturally condition men to be the breadwinner, to be providers, to be strong,” said Dr. Nitin Kapur, of Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, in a June 2021 article. “We teach them not to be vulnerable, but the very act of seeing a primary care provider is a vulnerable experience, because you have to talk about your physical health.”

Jess also perservered through his pain for months before seeking treatment, and he’s left wondering if he could have prevented it.

“I tell my 27-year-old [Dylan]: ‘Go to the doctor. Go get checked out,” said Crocker. “This could have been prevented if I had gone in sooner.”