08/08/11 While perhaps not unprecedented, it was certainly unusual for girlâ€™s softball games to be played with pink softballs; but thatâ€™s what happened last Saturday during the Knockout Cancer event held in Bremen.
The big 14Ugame between the Bremen Knockouts and the Nappanee Storms was played to celebrate the lives of those who have beat cancer, in remembrance of others who lost their battle against the disease and as a fundraiser to help save lives in the future.
The idea for the event that included a two-mile charity walk, cancer survivor and remembrance ceremony, balloon launch and softball game was spearheaded by Fox 28 Sports Director Dean Huppert. Huppert is also an assistant coach for the Bremen Knockouts.
Huppert said, â€śAt Christmas when each of the girls on the team received a pink Knockout Cancer T-shirt, the enthusiasm for the event started to rise.â€ť Huppert couldnâ€™t say enough about the work of the team in preparing for the event that raised some $6000 that will be donated to the Community Hospital of Bremen towards the purchase of Digital Mammography equipment. â€śThe girls all showed up at 2:00 today to start blowing up balloons for the ceremony launch. They spent hours cleaning up Janeâ€™s Park since the walk would pass by there.â€ť said Huppert. Janeâ€™s Park was named for the late Bremen resident Jane Sieg StillsonÂ who lost her battle with cancer after making the decision to forego treatment to save her then unborn child.
Huppert said part of the idea of the event was to raise awareness of the need for early detection of breast cancer. During the week before the event, team members were given a tour of the hospital and given information on the need for mammograms. Fifteen staff members of the hospital were actively involved in the event by manning the silent auction, providing cancer related information, and a host of other duties.
Helping to start the charity walk was twelve-year-old cancer survivor Evan Johnson of Argos. When Evan was ten, a chest x-ray to determine why he continued to have a cough and cold symptoms after having what they thought was the routine flu showed a mass in his lungs. He was diagnosed with Hodgkinâ€™s Lymphoma and treated at Rileyâ€™s Children Hospital in Indianapolis. Now, he is cancer free. Evan said, â€śYou need to stay strong, just get through it and believe in yourself.â€ť He added, â€śSo many people came to help me beat it and I wanted to help others beat it too.â€ť Evanâ€™s parents Bruce and Kerry Johnson and brothers Kyle and Kurt believe his recovery was due in part to Evanâ€™s attitude.
Although it was the final weekend before the start of football season, two Norte Dame players were on hand to support the event. Quarterback Dayne Crist and center Braxton Cave participated in the opening ceremony. Cave spoke of his grandmotherâ€™s battle with breast cancer and encouraged those attending to do all they can to help fight the disease. Crist said, â€śThis is an amazing event. We are very humbled to be part of it.â€ť He added, â€śNotre Dame football players work very hard, but it doesnâ€™t compare with the struggles anyone with cancer goes through.â€ť
Also getting the walkers off was Huppertâ€™s friend Kris Verash and Fox 28 Sports Anchor Allison Hayes. Both have been a part of the planning for the event. Verash said the event took on a deeper meaning for him since he recently learned his girlfriend has cancer.
Addressing the crowd prior to the game, Huppert said, â€śYou never know when cancer is going to hit your family.â€ť He shared that his father had cancer in the 1990â€™s. He said, â€śWe are all here for one cause. no one has given up hope.â€ť
Leading the survivor walk was Huppertâ€™s mother who is a breast cancer survivor. Other survivors of the disease walked the bases representing the different plateaus in beating the disease. While the survivors were walking, balloons were let go to remember those who have lost their cancer battles.
Huppert said he was inspired by the way the North Judson girls basketball team rallied around one of their own when she was diagnosed with bone cancer. He said, â€śAshley Derrickson wasnâ€™t able to play her freshman or sophomore years, but did get a chance to make a memorable point during her junior year.â€ť The teenager eventually lost her life to the disease. Her parents, Mike and Sheri Derrickson, were at the Bremen event on Saturday to support other families and encourage awareness for finding a cure.
The Bremen Knockouts and coaches mike Huppert, Beth Huppert, Jamie Czarnecki, Matt Gilley, Dean Huppert and Mitch Huppert shared their gratitude saying, â€śThe Bremen Knockouts would like to thank all cancer survivors for giving us hope. Weâ€™d also like to remember those how have passed for giving us a fighting spirit.â€ť
Carol Anders Correspondent