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'Kick it Kenley': Ross High School student-athlete perseveres during lymphoma diagnosis

Outpouring of support for daughter of Ross football coach Kenyon Commins
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Posted at 3:54 PM, Aug 30, 2023

ROSS TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Ross High School sophomore Kenley Commins is a class president and soccer player who loves art, sports photography and gorillas.

Most importantly, she is a friend to anyone who knows her.

"She doesn't exactly have enemies; she's a pretty sweet girl," said Ross football coach Kenyon Commins, Kenley's father.

Kenley, 15, has received inspiration from classmates, teammates and opposing schools since June as she perseveres during treatment for anaplastic large cell lymphoma at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"She knows that we're all here for her," Ross senior fullback/safety Riley Caldwell said.

As the Rams prepare to host Northwest Friday night, Kenley Commins is on the minds of the Ross community. It's why Caldwell said the season is dedicated to Kenley.

"Ross is a family," athletic director Justin Beck said.

That significant support for Kenley goes beyond this Butler County school community.

Inspirational messages, prayers and financial donations have arrived from several schools including Badin,Edgewood, Hamilton, Mariemont, Monroe, Mount Healthy and Roger Bacon.

Everything is geared toward the 'Kick it Kenley' campaign.

"I've learned a lot about our family and I think I've learned a lot about the people who really care about us and how important community is," Kenyon Commins said.

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Ross football coach Kenyon Commins said his family has persevered during daughter Kenley's lymphoma diagnosis. Commins is pictured with his wife, Monica, along with daughters Kaylin and Kenley, and son, Kolton.

It's family, football and faith that are at the center of the Commins family. Monica Commins, Kenyon's wife and Kenley's mother, has been with Kenley every day at the hospital.

Kenyon, the Ross High School dean of students, continues to strive to be the best husband, father of three (Kolton, Kaylin and Kenley) and head coach during a difficult time. He understandably missed a lot of the summer football workouts.

"The (coaching) staff has been phenomenal," Kenyon said. "Every single coach has done more than they needed to do."

The football players also took time to show support with a surprise Skyline Chili lunch for the family at the hospital this summer.

"We all understood that he had to be there for his daughter," Caldwell said.

It's also why Kenley had to be present for her father a few weeks ago. She took advantage of a four-hour window away from the hospital to visit the team for the first half of the season opener against visiting Wyoming Aug. 18.

The Ross student section — known as 'The Herd' — joyously chanted Kenley's name.

Sitting in a wheelchair, Kenley greeted the team in the pregame with high-fives as the Rams entered the stadium.

Kenyon walked over to hug his daughter. The Rams saw the emotion in their coach's eyes. Kenyon later joked it was sweat and not tears, but everyone knew better.

"It was pretty hard to make the sidelines that night," Kenyon said. "Just a lot of emotion. It was tough. My wife (Monica) hasn't missed a football game of ours in 15 years. And that was the day Kenley was born in September all those years ago. It was a very special night."

Kenyon, who has been the Ross head coach for seven years, hasn't questioned the circumstances of why Kenley was diagnosed with lymphoma. She will likely celebrate her 16th birthday next month in the hospital. The days are often very difficult on Kenley and her family.

Still, the Commins family prefers to be grateful for the blessings in life.

"Instead of saying why I think it's a great opportunity for us to be thankful for what we have," Kenyon said. "Be thankful to be the head coach here. Be thankful we have the family that we do."

The Commins family continues to live in the moment each day without looking too far ahead to the future.

Although Kenyon had difficulty admitting his tears before the season opener, he knows he won't hold back when Kenley is able to leave the hospital one day.

"I can imagine if I was that emotional just to see her for a football game, I will be a hot mess when she comes out for good," Kenyon said.

How to help Kenley Commins:

  • Ross coach Kenyon Commins kindly requests prayers and thoughts for Kenley and the family.
  • Visit any Fifth Third Bank location in Greater Cincinnati and make a direct financial donation to 'Kick it Kenley' to assist with the family's medical expenses.
  • Big Buls Roadhouse in Ross will host a benefit from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 10 to coincide with the Bengals at Browns game. Admission is $10 at the door and includes food, a silent auction and a raffle.
  • The Ross student section will have a 'Kick it Kenley' theme for the Oct. 20 home game against Bellbrook.

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