GAIL WHITE As life throws curves, this family hits home runs

I met Dave and Sandy Kent at the baseball field.
Dave was easy to spot, his long hair flowing out from behind his baseball cap as he helped coach a Columbiana team of 9- and 10-year-olds.
Sandy was just as easy to recognize, cheering excitedly.
No one would ever guess that this is the last place Dave and Sandy expected to be.
Former life: Four years ago, the couple was living in Chicago. Dave worked in an auto parts store and Sandy was in the accounting department for the Girl Scouts of America.
"We were pretty carefree," Sandy remembers.
"DINKS," Dave says, smiling at his wife.
Noticing my look of confusion, he explains the term, "Duel income, no kids."
As we chuckle over the expression, 9-year-old Shane comes to the door. "Can I go over to Troy's?" he asks.
"Not right now," Sandy responds.
On Sept. 1, 1997, Dave's sister died, leaving three children.
Since then, they have been DINKS no more.
"My sister asked me if I would take care of the kids if something happened to her," Dave explains. "I don't make promises I don't keep."
As I marvel over the enormity of that promise, Dave replies, very matter-of-factly, "I don't see it as anything special. We were just doing what we had to do."
This is a couple quite familiar with doing what must be done.
Another change: In February 1995, Dave began losing weight.
"He was down to 120 pounds," Sandy says.
"I was driving home from work one night, feeling a lump on my neck," Dave remembers. "I thought it would go away."
Sandy suspected it would not.
The next day, Sandy insisted he visit the doctor.
After a biopsy, Dave was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease.
"He was in the last stage of the disease before it takes your life," Sandy says, the quiver still present in her voice.
Dave underwent surgery.
The doctors expected to find a tumor the size of a golf ball. What they found was one the size of a lemon.
Eight months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation followed.
"He lost all his hair below his eyebrows," Sandy remembers. "But not on his head. It only thinned out."
Dave was thankful for that.
"I look better with long hair," he jests. "My head ain't shaped right."
"Were you afraid you would die?" I ask, curiously.
"No, never," he responds, with the same matter-of-fact tone in his voice.
Such is Dave's demeanor and outlook on life.
Best shot: Not one to dwell on the circumstances life throws his way, he merely deals with every pitch and gives it his best swing.
Less than a year after recovering from cancer, the tragedy of losing his sister occurred.
"It was a big change," Dave admits of his sudden parenthood. "We were used to getting up on Sunday and taking a motorcycle ride. Leaving when we wanted and coming back when we wanted."
Instantly, their lives became consumed with baby-sitting needs and school issues.
The living expenses of Chicago proved to be too much for their new family.
"The day care charged $5 a minute if you were late," Dave explains with disgust.
A move was in order.
Now, instead of fighting city traffic, he spends his afternoons at the Columbiana baseball fields.
"Don't fret over it," he tells a player. "Try next time!"
"Come on guys! Let's get some runs!" he encourages in his firm but fun manner.
Meanwhile, Sandy can be found cheering in the stands or helping coach the T-ball team on which Brandon, the youngest of the three children, plays.
"You never know the way things will work out," Dave says, referring to the events of his life.

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