Bil Gangl was a teacher, coach and leader. His strong character, warmth and charisma was admired by everyone who knew him – including the students and staff at Mahtomedi High School.

Bil was a long-time track coach at Mahtomedi. He loved working with the student-athletes so much that he continued coaching there even after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007.

“It was important to Bil and to me to still do all of the things that we had enjoyed doing,” his wife Megan said. “We didn’t focus on the cancer. We focused on living, relationships, fun and family.”

Bil lived with small-cell carcinoma for 2.5 years before it took his life at age 53. That’s more than twice as long as most people with this form of lung cancer live.

“In that time, we enjoyed lots of travel and lots of family dinners,” Megan said. “We went on long walks when he felt up for it. Really, we made sure to do anything that was about enjoying life.”

Track team shows love for their coach

In 2009, the coach who replaced Bil wanted to skip the usual pizza sales and other small team fundraisers, and instead do a big, community event. So the team designed a 24-hour relay.

“Part way through the planning, some of the students came to the coaches,” Megan recalled. “They said, ‘Coach Gangl isn’t doing very well. Do you think we could give some of the money we raise to the American Cancer Society?’ ”

And that’s how the first Bil Gangl 24-Hour Relay at Mahtomedi High School was born.

Sadly, Bil passed away before the second event took place in 2010 – but that year, Megan formed a relay team herself. She and Bil had created a memorial gift through the Regions Hospital Foundation. So, she boosted that gift with the money her team raised through the relay.

Bil’s friends and family members continue to participate. Even some Regions Hospital staff members regularly take part in the relay event. In 2021, the relay raised $7,900 with a portion of the event’s proceeds once again going to the Bil Gangl Memorial Fund at the HealthPartners Cancer Center at Regions Hospital.

Bil’s memorial fund makes a difference

HealthPartners Cancer Center at Regions Hospital identifies patients who might be missing out on those family dinners or vacations that were so important to Bil and Megan. Then, the Cancer Center uses money from the Bil Gangl Memorial Fund to provide simple things to those patients and their families – like zoo memberships, tickets to sporting events, a gift card for a massage or a big family dinner at an area restaurant.

It’s important to provide great care, but this fund allows patients and families to experience life away from the hospital or clinic. It’s money that goes to caring for the whole person.