Scholarship to honor Gamma Rho alumnus

Nov 29, 2011

GAMMA RHO (Missouri) — Jake Cavanaugh (Missouri ’07) was a social and charismatic young man. He loved working with children and had a dream to one day become a dietitian.

Jake’s mother, Jane Cavanaugh, believes he would have ended up working for someplace like Children’s Mercy Hospital.

“He wanted to help people eat right and lead a more healthy lifestyle,” she said. “He was always eating the right things. Never drank pop, never ate junk food. I think he would have worked at a children’s hospital just because he loved kids. He loved spending time with them.”

Jake died in December 2010 at age 22. He had battled osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, since he was 16 years old. He was a 2007 graduate of Blue Springs High School and attended the University of Missouri for two years, where he majored in dietetics. He was also a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. Although he battled cancer for six years, undergoing endless chemotherapy treatments and surgeries, his mother said he never felt sorry for himself.

“Osteosarcoma is a form of bone cancer typically found in teenagers 13 to 18 years old. It is usually diagnosed right after a growth spurt,” she said. “It was a shock for all of us when we found out. But he was strong and handled it like a man. He was positive and upbeat. He was ready for a fight.”

In remembrance of Jake, the Jake Cavanaugh Memorial Scholarship has been established at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo. Although Jake did not attend Northwest, the scholarship was set up by friends of Cavanaugh family as well as Jeff and Karen Gould, alumni from Northwest.

“Jake had the ability to light up the room with his sense of humor, his witty comments, his smile and his ability to always see the good in people,” said Jeff Gould. “Jake lost a courageous fight with cancer, but in his short 22 years, he lived every moment.”

Cavanaugh said she was pleased to hear about the scholarship, especially since Jake went to MU and UMKC in order to stay on track with his classes while he was undergoing chemotherapy.

“This has meant so much to us,” she said. “It is just really awesome how this scholarship has been created.”

Students majoring in the dietetics program will be eligible for the scholarship, and it will be given based on academics and financial need.

“No matter what the circumstance, Jake never complained and never lost his sense of humor,” Cavanaugh said. “He impacted many people’s lives in the short time he was with us, and he will truly be missed. In Jake’s words, ‘Peace.’”

Since his death, Jake’s family has established the Jake Cavanaugh Foundation, which provides funding for osteosarcoma research as well as to support children and families who are going through cancer. The foundation has two major fundraisers – the Annual Jake Cavanaugh Turkey Bowl (see Thursday’s article by Bill Althaus about this year’s Turkey Bowl) and the Jake Cavanaugh St. Patrick’s Day Celebration.

“He was a special boy,” his mother said. “He had so much dignity, even until the very end. He is very much missed.”

For more information about the Jake Cavanaugh Foundation, visit the website at

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