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Crosstown Rivals Crush Cancer
Loy Norrix, Kalamazoo Central Hold Cancer Awareness Night on Sept. 9
Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix high school football teams will use their crosstown rivalry to help raise cancer awareness.
When the teams play each other at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9., at Loy Norrix, a statement about cancer awareness will be read before the national anthem, and Loy Norrix alums and pro football players T.J. and Tico Duckett will speak to the crowds at half-time.
“We are honored to have the privilege of joining other ‘ambassadors’ while amplifying cancer action with our fellow Loy Norrix Knights, during the crosstown rivalry.” said T.J. and Tico Duckett in a press statement. “ Both played at Norrix and Michigan State University. T.J. Duckett played for the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, and the Seattle Seahawks. Tico Duckett was a star player for MSU holding the record for rushing yardage during his college career before going on to play for the Redskins.
“We chose a time such as this because of the anticipated large attendance and the potential for the greatest impact amongst our alma mater’s community members,” they said. “Our own mother, Jackie Barham, would have celebrated more birthdays, if there was a cure for cancer. This is just one way that we can honor her memory,”
Barham would have celebrated her 70th birthday this year.
Loy Norrix will wear teal jerseys to represent ovarian cancer, which is what Barham suffered from, while Central will wear pink which represents breast cancer. The jerseys are being donated by the Ducketts.
The crosstown event was organized by Terri Benton-Ollie and the KC football boosters. Andrew Laboe, athletic director at Loy Norrix, said the cancer awareness message will be simple but highly visible, including all cancer survivors in attendance to stand and be recognized. The evening will also serve to kick off a series of cancer awareness events planned at each school.
The game has special meaning for at least three members of the Kalamazoo Central team: Ontario Burnett lost his grandfather to prostate cancer; Shannon Atkins Jr.’s grandmother died of breast cancer; and Vincent Coakley’s grandmother succumbed to lung cancer. For these three seniors, the game is not just a crosstown rivalry but about raising awareness of a disease that has dramatically impacted their lives.
“My grandfather was a father figure to me,” Burnett said. “He was one of the few guys who saw something in me. He just told me to keep strong with everything. I’m surprised how many of my fellow teammates have had people who have had cancer. It makes me feel like we’re family even more because of that fight.”
Coakley said he still misses his grandmother’s faith and generosity, “You never realized how much cancer touches people until you’re at something like this and Mrs. Ollie asks everyone to raise their hand if cancer has touched your family. It’s crazy how we can have so many high tech things, but we still can’t find a way to get rid of cancer.”
Atkins said his grandmother’s death caused tremendous pain for the family even today, eight years after her battle ended. He hopes that the game will be a chance for cancer survivors and their families to support each other.
“ We know that we must ‘tackle’ so many of our societal ills,” Benton-Ollie said. “Tragedy can be a disastrous one-moment incident or a phenomenon that must be reversed or a disease that lurks amongst us. Let’s create a ripple effect of continuous gestures and action that work in favor of the greater good and crush cancer.”