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Devoted adviser turns care inward

Brian Sullivan has built a career out of helping kids _ at the Boys and Girls Club, at anger-control workshops for troubled teens in Hernando and Citrus counties, with the Department of Juvenile Justice probation program.

Now, Sullivan, 56, is shifting his care to someone new: himself.

On Sunday, the former director of the Boys and Girls Club of Citrus County learned that he has cancer in his right kidney and that the left kidney is only 10 percent functional.

Doctors expect to operate on the cancerous kidney Tuesday afternoon. Sullivan's two brothers are being tested in case a kidney transplant becomes necessary.

"I wasn't totally prepared for this," Sullivan said from his Citrus Memorial Hospital room this week. "I just started feeling really bad the last couple weeks."

Most recently, Sullivan has coached the Novocaines lacrosse club, started four years ago mostly with recruits from anger-control classes at the club.

Of 35 players last year, 17 were or had been on probation. Still, the group won the West Division title in the South Florida Prep School League.

In Sullivan's absence, the players scheduled their own practices this week and took instruction from the four team captains. Many of the players called or stopped by Sullivan's home.

"We wouldn't be anywhere without Coach," said lacrosse player Todd Petrie, a junior at Crystal River High School. "A lot of kids, just because of lacrosse, have been turned around."

Sullivan had hoped to leave the hospital for the weekend to rest at home. This is his first battle with serious illness.

"I'm going to take one step at a time," Sullivan said. "I've never faced this kind of a challenge.

"Of course, I miss the kids. I want to be with them."

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.