HARDIN - Friends and family of Nate Lorton are hosting a benefit for him next weekend, but that's nothing compared to what his father is doing.
Jeff Lorton, 57, of Grafton, is donating a kidney to his son, who is scheduled to receive the transplant May 24 at St. Francis Hospital in Peoria.
Nate Lorton, 34, was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called IgA that can have some effect on the kidneys. Ninety percent of patients with this disorder live a full life without any kidney damage; unfortunately, 10 percent of them end up experiencing renal failure.
Nate Lorton is among the 10 percent, but now his father is stepping up to help save his life.
"My dad is a wonderful and amazing man, and while he is proud to be my donor, I hate to see him go though this," Nate Lorton said Thursday from his classroom at the Fieldcrest Community School District that serves Toluca, Minonk, Wenona, Rutland, Dana and LaRose.
Nate Lorton grew up in Calhoun County, the son of Jeff and Sandy Lorton, and his siblings are J.D. Lorton, Laef Lorton and Dani Goebel. He graduated from Calhoun High School in 1994 and Illinois College in Jacksonville in 1998.
His first teaching job was in 2000 with the Jersey Community School District, where he taught sixth grade for two years at Dow Elementary before teaching at the district's Illini Middle School for six years. He also served as Jersey Community High School assistant football coach for six years.
Lorton then served one year as head football coach at Sullivan before accepting the position as head football coach for the Knights of Fieldcrest Community School District, where he also teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math and science at the district's Middle School in Winona.
"I kept my illness to myself as long as I could, but once it was at the stage to inform administration and faculty, my students and my football players quickly learned of it, and everyone here has been very supportive," Lorton said.
Lorton said he has a great coaching staff at the district, and they are handling his coaching responsibilities through the end of June. He said he hopes to be back on the field and ready to go by July.
He has continued to teach every day, he said, although he has to leave early some days because he tires easily. He and his wife, Laurie, who he met at college, have four children: Emma, 9, Matt, 8, Henry, 6, and Eddie, 3. The family lives in Minonk. Laurie Lorton teaches third grade in Gridley.
"I can't say enough about Laurie," her husband said. "She has been having to do it all, and I know without her, I could not get through this."
Nate Lorton's sister, Dani Gobel of Grafton, via testing, had proven to be a 100 percent match as his kidney donor; however, additional testing revealed she had small kidney stones in each kidney, negating her as a donor. That is when their father, Jeff Lorton, though only a 50 percent match, became the donor.
As of Thursday, Jeff Lorton had to undergo one more test Friday before the green light could be given for him to be his son's donor.
"The test came out fine, and I am the guy," Jeff Lorton said in a telephone conversation Friday after receiving the test results. "I am so happy to do it; when it is for one of your children, you are just glad you can do it. When our daughter, Dani, was set to be the donor because she was a 100 percent match, I was glad for Nate, but as a father, concerned that another of my children was to have surgery. So, my ending up being the donor has made me doubly happy."
Nate Lorton has been exchanging e-mails with fellow kidney transplant recipient Terry Strauch of Calhoun County, who received a donor kidney from a daughter several years ago. Strauch, a former Calhoun School District superintendent, is an assistant regional superintendent for the Regional Office of Education 40, which serves Calhoun, Greene, Jersey and Macoupin counties.
"Mr. Strauch has been very encouraging and tells me how much better I will feel once the transplant is done, and that has helped relieve my mind," Lorton said.
Moving on to those friends and family that are hosting the benefit for him, Lorton became almost as emotional as when he spoke about the gift his father is willing to give him by being the donor.
"I obviously just love those guys, and if it were turned around, I would do the same thing for them," Lorton said. "This whole process has been pretty amazing. We have always been pretty close, but this has brought us even closer together."
Lorton is talking about Tim Nelson, Tim Weber, J.D. Lorton, Aaron Elmore and Nancy Seiferman.
Nelson and Nate Lorton played football together at Calhoun High; Nelson now is the head football coach at Marquette Catholic High School in Alton. Weber, of Carrollton, also attended high school with them and now is an assistant coach to Nelson at Marquette Catholic. Nate's older brother, J.D., has been head football coach at Granite City High School but just accepted the job as head football coach at the North Macoupin School District, newly formed by the merger of the Virden and Girard school districts). Elmore is another of the Calhoun football teammates who now is head football coach at Beardstown High School. Seiferman is Nate Lorton's cousin.
"Nancy is not only my cousin, but we went all through grade and high school together, and are best friends, as well as cousins," Nate said.
"And as for my football buddies, what can I say? We just all loved the game of football, our experiences playing football, and we admired our coaches and all felt like we wanted to give back to young people through coaching," he said. "We all think it's great coaching football."
Nate said he is more than grateful for the planned benefit and all the support he has received from family and friends from Calhoun, Greene and Jersey counties, as well as his current friends, students and faculty members.
Nate and his family will attend the benefit next Saturday, starting at 7:30 p.m., at the Straight Home Bar and Grill in Hardin.
Nate and his father will arrive at St. Francis Hospital at 5:30 a.m. May 24. He is not sure when the surgery will start, but he does know he will not be allowed around large groups of people for four weeks after surgery and must be off work and at home for six weeks afterward.
"I am looking forward to no longer being so exhausted at the end of the day, and eager to be able to do everyday things with my family and to get back to my coaching," Nate said.
Nelson said they are in the process of setting up a bank account for continuing donations to help offset additional costs not covered by Nate Lorton's medical insurance, the same reason they are hosting the benefit.
The benefit includes a DJ for musical entertainment that starts at 8:30 p.m., pork chop sandwiches and chips, Jell-O shots, a 50/50 drawing and more.
There is a $10 cover charge/donation at the door. For more information, contact the Straight Home Bar and Grill at (618) 576-2766.
"We are so thankful for all the thoughts, prayers and generous gifts that everyone from Calhoun and Jersey counties have passed our way, and grateful to friends and family for the benefit they have planned," Nate said. "And a thank-you to my dad doesn't even seem enough. As I said, he is an amazing, wonderful man."