Blake Christian LaForce, a 2009 student athlete and graduate of Butler High School, fought and beat cancer (acute lymphoblastic leukemia), with a bone marrow transplant. Then a surprise central nervous system parasitic infection challenged Blake, who miraculously fought on, only later to succumb to insurmountable number of complications. Blake was the son of Mark and Linda LaForce and the brother of Lauren (LaForce) Woods and Johnathan LaForce. Blake was a “home-grown boy” attending Murlin Heights, Smith Middle, and Butler High Schools. He was a good student (receiving an invitation to National Honor Society) who enjoyed and excelled in athletics outside the classroom.
Blake loved football and was a “student of the game,” as the game came natural to him. He was a fierce competitor, exceptional athlete and team player and was tenacious about success and winning. His “athletic career” began in elementary school when he played pee wee football. Although he participated in other sports by the time he reached high school, Blake concentrated on football, wrestling and track and field; receiving varsity letters in all of these sports early on. He was a power weight lifting champion. Receiving the “Archie Griffin Sportsmanship Award” was and exciting moment for the young Blake LaForce.
Blake’s victory over cancer and valiant battle against the devastating central nervous system infection was fought with belief and a positive attitude, which has become an inspiration to many young athletes in the Vandalia-Butler community and beyond. Blake demonstrated his quiet confidence and strength and hit this adversity and life threatening challenge head on, as if it were just another opponent to tackle, or run through. Blake will always be an inspiration, in the Vandalia-Butler community of athletes, because he led by example. Blake’s football jersey #41, retired in the fall of 2009, hangs in the lobby of the Student Activity Center at BHS honoring his legacy. The #41 also was retired by the Pee Wee Aviators, starting their 41st year. The jersey, along with a picture of Blake and his father coach Mark, hangs in the concession stand at Smith Middle School Field as an inspiration. The Blake LaForce Memorial ‘TUFF’ Award is presented annually to a football player who demonstrates those “winning qualities”: character, leadership, toughness, hard work, determination, tenacity, and courage. This award is displayed in the SAC lobby next to Blake’s retired #41 jersey.
The spirit of building the character of Vandalia-Butler youth is the impetus for the Blake LaForce MEMORIAL FUND. The LaForce family understands the need for “educating the whole child”. Student athletes not only learn a strong work ethic and determination, but also how to work together, as a team, to attain one common goal. Students who participate in athletics at any level learn leadership skills, how to set and reach goals, and a sense of healthy competition.
Community support is necessary to provide the best for these student athletes. Contributions to the BLAKE LAFORCE #41 MEMORIAL FUND will ensure not only that Blake’s legacy lives on, but the best possible opportunities are made available for our students.
Information concerning the VISIONS Endowment Fund, how to donate, as well as how to make a difference in the Vandalia-Butler Schools, can be found on the website: www.visionsendowmentfund.org.
Please make donation checks out to: “Blake LaForce #41 Memorial Fund.”