Tim Nickos was in the peak of health when he passed away in his sleep between his junior and senior year at Oak Lawn Community High School in June 2011.
The 17-year-old swam the 500-meter race and was distance swimmer for the varsity swim team. He played trumpet in the Spartan Band. He taught young children how to swim and built racing engines in his grandpa’s shop. And Tim was a devoted boyfriend to Liz Nedji.
“We found out after the fact that Tim had an enlarged heart,” Tim’s dad, Dale Nickos, said. “He was in perfect shape but it didn’t matter. It was probably worse for him.”
Since his son’s sudden passing, Dale has worked to keep Tim’s memory alive by creating a scholarship in his name as a way of giving back to the school that Tim loved.
This Saturday (March 23) a candlelight bowl fundraiser will be held at Fox Bowl in Wheaton to raise money for the Tim Nickos Memorial Scholarship that provides $2,500 in tuition assistance to an OLCHS senior.
While he may not have been a straight-A student or a star athlete, Tim kept up his grades and won the swim team’s sportsmanship award his junior year.
“I wanted the scholarship to be something Tim could have won, and not necessarily go to the best scholar or athlete,” Dale Nickos said. “He made everyone laugh and was always encouraging and motivating everyone around him to do better.”
Last year, the first scholarship went to OLCHS senior Angela Roti, a moment that Dale describes as “totally worth it” when he saw Angela’s face light up when she heard her name called during an awards assembly.
Dale started raising Tim on his own when his son turned two. Tim was his only child, which makes his son’s loss doubly hard.
To spare other parents the heartache he was suffered, Dale began working with Young Hearts 4 Life, a cardiac screening program that brings EKG testing into schools to test students for undetected hearts problems.
Dale would like to bring Young Hearts 4 Life to OLCHS for the day to provide free EKG screenings and if needed, echo testing for students.
“If the EKG picks up any abnormalities, we’ll have a portable echo scan on the spot,” Dale said. “The echo scan can visually see the heart through ultra sound.”
Although the last two years have been a roller coaster, Dale has gotten through it with the help of his fiancé, Jamie Unger, and good friends. He treasures the time he got to spend with Tim, who in the time alloted to him, lived life to the fullest.
“He was a blast,” his father said.
The second annual Tim Nickos Memorial Scholarship Candlelight Bowling fundraiser kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 23 with drinks and food; bowling starts at 9:15 p.m. The benefit is being held at Fox Bowl, 1101 Butterfield Road, in Wheaton. Cost is $30 per adult, $25 for students, and includes three games of bowling, dinner and a 50/50 split-the-pot raffle. Bowlers are also being accepted at the door. For more info or to make reservations, email Dale Nickos at NACDale@aol.com.