With quiet, thoughtful words, Laura Cano tried to verbalize what her son, Robby, was like.
“He was such a good person,” Mrs. Cano said. “He was just very giving and forgiving, very level, level-headed.”
She said that with most kids, parents are afraid to give them a lot of freedom, but she never worried about it with him because he was so responsible, she said.
Robby died in September after a brief illness. He was 16. On Monday, Mrs. Cano and her husband, Hugo, received a plaque in memory of Robby from the Tyler ISD elementary teachers along with The First Tee of Greater Tyler. The presentation came at the beginning of the school’s district’s 11th Annual Physical Education Showcase at Caldwell Auditorium.
The plaque features an image taken from a picture of Robby along with his name, birth and death years and the Bible verse, Proverbs 8:17, which in the New International Version reads, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”
A Whitehouse High School junior at the time of his death, Robby was an avid golfer. Mrs. Cano said he loved golfing and was good at it, too.
Last summer, he volunteered as a junior coach with The First Tee of Greater Tyler, a nonprofit organization that exists to help youth develop life skills through the game of golf.
Christian Sarran, program director for The First Tee of Greater Tyler, said the organization launched the Junior Coach Program last year with the desire to see high school golfers serve in leadership roles with the younger children in the program.
Robby was one of the first golfers to sign up for the program, Sarran said. He helped out during the organization’s summer camps at the Boys and Girls Club of East Texas and the Pine Springs Golf Club.
Sarran said Robby let kids climb on his back, played basketball with them while they waited for their rides, and spent quality time with them.
“He was really a great example of what we were looking for in the junior coach program,” Sarran said, adding that Robby was a great mentor, friend and role model.
Mrs. Cano said Robby received his first set of golf clubs when he was 5 years old but didn’t start to get serious about the sport until he was 14. From there, he developed his abilities very quickly, Mrs. Cano said.
His plan was to continue improving and play in college. She said he spent hours at The Cascades practicing.
“He did that the day before he got sick,” she said.
Doctors diagnosed him with mono on a Monday, but later diagnosed him with Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH, a rare condition in which certain white blood cells build up in organs and destroy other blood cells, according to a National Institutes of Health website. He passed away less than a week after his mono diagnosis.
Mrs. Cano said her family has been humbled by the support they have received from Whitehouse High School, Tyler ISD and Central Baptist Church.
“They have just been our pillars,” Mrs. Cano said.
Although most people don’t know what to say to them, what they have done has provided encouragement.
Last fall, The First Tee of Greater Tyler posthumously presented him with its Junior Coach of the Year award.
In addition, the organization announced that from this year on that award will be known as the Robby Cano Jr. Coach of the Year Award.
“It helps us keep Robby’s memory alive, which is not enough, but that’s all we have,” Mrs. Cano said.
This year, two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to graduating students at Whitehouse High School and one $1,000 scholarship will be awarded at the high school he attended in Liberal, Kan., his freshman year.
His mother, Mrs. Cano, is TISD’s executive director of elementary education and his father is a physical education coach at TISD’s Orr Elementary School. They have a 22-year-old daughter, Natalie.