GREENFIELD — Mitch Blocher has always loved a good pork burger, especially the kind prepared by the Eastern Hancock Athletic Boosters.
He’s spent many a night grilling up the juicy burgers at Eastern Hancock athletic events, where he’s often been known to order a double stacked one.
On Wednesday night, more than 1,200 of the burgers were grilled and distributed right in his front yard.
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The Eastern Hancock community has rallied around Blocher and his family as he endures the final stages of brain cancer, organizing a drive-through fundraiser in less than a week. Within less than 2½ hours, all 1,200 burgers were gone, but the procession of cars continued.
Blocher, his wife, Angeline, and their two teenage sons have been overwhelmed by the community’s support.
They watched from the front porch Wednesday as roughly 500 cars drove by from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., picking up burgers, donating money and recording video messages for the family.
While organizers wouldn’t say how much money was raised, they said the total exceeded their wildest expectations.
The outpouring of support is a fitting tribute for a man they say has always been willing to serve his community and the Eastern Hancock schools in any way he can.
As the sun set Wednesday, casting a golden glow on the Blochers’ front yard, up to 30 friends gathered to grill burgers, collect donations and help record messages that would hopefully sustain the family through a difficult holiday season.
This month marked the Blochers’ 22nd wedding anniversary. It also marks Blocher’s 25th work anniversary with the Indiana State Police, where he’s served as a trooper, detective and SWAT team member. A military veteran, he also served in the Gulf War.
On Wednesday, members of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and Greenfield Police Department did a drive-by past his house, with red and blue lights blazing. Later, Indiana State Police troopers did the same thing.
The procession of cars filled with well-wishers stretched as far as the eye could see for much of the night along County Road 200N between County Roads 600E and 700E. It was an emotional show of support for the family.
The Blochers’ oldest son Sam graduated as valedictorian from Eastern Hancock High School this past summer. Their youngest son Joe is a member of the high school swim team.
It’s no secret their dad has been a well-loved and well-respected member of the Eastern Hancock community throughout their lives.
Blocher has helped coach a number of local teams throughout the years, and has been an ardent supporter and board member for the athletic booster club.
His active lifestyle quickly took an expected turn this past April, when he began showing signs that something wasn’t quite right.
That month, doctors found tumors in his brain. He’s now at home in hospice care, in hopes of making it through one more Christmas with his wife and kids.
Aaron Spaulding, athletic director at Eastern Hancock, became fast friends with Blocher when their kids were in elementary school.
“He’s helped coach basketball teams, track teams, he’s served on the community foundation board and the athletic booster board, and has just pitched in whenever he can. He’s the type of guy that anytime the school needs anything, you always know you can count on him,” he said.
Last year Blocher was a regular fixture at the high school’s varsity and junior varsity basketball games, where he kept the books for both teams. He’s coached both the boys and girls middle school track teams.
“He’s the kind of guy who is willing to step up and do whatever is needed,” Spaulding said.
Angeline Blocher has often been by her husband’s side at sporting events, serving as a physical therapist to students when she and her husband haven’t been watching their own sons compete.
“They’re just one of those families that are always there to help,” Spauldling said.
Now, he said, it’s time for the community to help them.
Dana Allen, who helped organize the fundraiser, was thrilled to see hundreds of well-wishers show up Wednesday night.
“We have nothing but absolute praise and love for the community and how they’ve wrapped their arms around this family,” she said.
Seeing a family like the Blochers face an uphill battle with cancer is an all-too-familiar situation at Eastern Hancock. Earlier this year the community rallied around the popular coach Clayton Shultz, who died from the disease in March.
It’s not unusual for the tight-knit community to support one another in times of need, Spaulding said.
“Everybody comes together to support the family and does whatever needs to be done. It’s times like this when this community really shines,” he said.
No matter what the future brings for the Blochers, he said, they can rest assured their community will be right there by their side.
“Mitch is an amazing guy, and has always been a tremendous community member,” said Allen, a longtime friend of the family who has taught their boys in school.
“Everybody who has had their boys in school loves the boys and loves the family. They’re extremely wonderful and supportive of the community,” she said.
It was Mitch who came up with a program a few years back called Don’t Be a Donkey, encouraging parents to remain positive and well-mannered at school sporting events.
Allen said she’ll never forget the time a parent from the visiting school was being escorted out of the game for bad behavior, and Blocher quietly got up from his seat and walked over, in case the officials needed any help.
“With the grace of a gazelle he stands up and he’s over by the bleachers just standing there quietly, in case anybody needed backup. It was just sort of an amazing thing to see. He saw the situation and took it upon himself to make sure everything went well,” Allen recalled.
Having a burger fundraiser for Blocher, who Allen calls a “big pork burger enthusiast,” seemed like a fitting tribute.
Friends were happily surprised that he felt well enough to spend over two hours out on his front porch Wednesday, watching the parade of well-wishers pass by.
He also ate five pork burgers that night.
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Donations are still being accepted to support the family of Mitch Blocher, who is battling brain cancer.
Donate online at Paypal.me/ehboosters or through Venmo at @EH-AthleticBoosters.
Checks made payable to Eastern Hancock Athletic Boosters can be mailed by Dec. 15 to:
Eastern Hancock Athletic Boosters, in care of Justin Swan, treasurer, 4316 S. County Road 900E, Carthage, IN 46215.