Dillon Schoen remembers the moment 18 months ago and the initial fright that came from first learning her father, Jon, had stage 4 prostate cancer.
“It was hard for me obviously,” said Schoen, the former three-sport Darien High School star who just completed her freshman season for the Stanford women’s lacrosse team. “I’ve always seen my dad as a healthy and talented role model. I remember hoping my father doesn’t die. I think that’s what most people think.”
Fortunately, Jon Schoen’s condition has been contained, and just under four weeks from now father and daughter will be united in a fundraising cause. The Schoens will take part in the Pan-Mass Challenge, riding a total of 163 miles over two days, from Wellesley to Provincetown, Mass. All money raised will go to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
It will be a daunting task for Schoen, despite her extraordinary resume of athletic accomplishments.
“I enjoy running and outdoor activity,” said Schoen, who is spending the summer living in Nantucket. “I got into cycling last year and I’ve done some road races and sprint triathlons. I get that from my dad. I’m a little nervous. I haven’t been riding super long, and I ride now about 30 miles every other day.”
Jon Schoen was a wide receiver and tight end at Boston College, a teammate of Doug Flutie’s. He had career bests of 29 catches, 605 yards and four touchdowns as a senior in 1982.
Schoen said the cancer metastasized to her father’s bones but has been controlled with hormone therapy and radiation. He took up cycling and rode in the Pan-Mass Challenge last year.
“I wasn’t able to because I was at the Stanford lacrosse camp, but he said we should do it together this year,” Schoen said.
Schoen has set a goal of raising $4,500 and is already nearly 90 percent there.
“I think this is all really moving,” Schoen said. “One thing that has stuck with me is hearing talk about how you aren’t just raising money, but giving strength to everyone who is dealing with cancer. Many people know a family member or friend affected. My dad is the strongest person I know. Riding beside him is going to be really moving.”
Schoen was a soccer star at Darien, took up indoor track as a freshman and won individual championships in the 600 and ran the anchor for a 4×200 relay team that for her last two years was unbeaten in sweeping the FCIAC, Class L, State Open and New England titles. As a senior for the Blue Wave lacrosse team, Schoen finished with 59 goals, 21 assists, 33 forced turnovers, 24 draw controls and 12 ground balls.
Recruited by traditional powers across the country, Schoen decided to take a road less traveled and head to the west coast and Stanford, an up and coming power. The Cardinal finished the season 15-3, losing to Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Schoen played in all 18 games, finishing with 10 goals, five assists and 14 ground balls.
“I was very pleased with the way lacrosse and everything went. I think I was very prepared for college lacrosse. It takes a lot of commitment and being prepared, and that comes from Lisa,” said Schoen, referring to Darien coach Lisa Lindley. “I feel I really grew as a player. High school lacrosse is so much different. It is more physical and you have to get stronger. I toughened up a bit. Being in California is far from home, but I feel I’ve found my second home, lacrosse-wise and with school in general.”
Schoen said her summer sports endeavor will come with one added perk.
“I’m really excited I get the whole weekend off from work,” Schoen said.