The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

February 10, 2013

Persons of the Week: Raising awareness: Lady Rangers collect funds for breast cancer foundation

— The Forest Hills High School Lady Ranger basketball team hosted a “White Out” event Jan. 18 to raise money for the Joyce P. Murtha Breast Cancer Foundation in Windber.

Four Lady Ranger basketball players organized the event as part of their senior project, but the experience had benefits that exceeded any class credit.

Senior Alexis Swanson and juniors Nicole Richards, Alexis Novotny and Kayla Walls began planning the event in November.

Their hard work paid off.

Swanson, daughter of Brian and Jackie Swanson of Sidman, said the event raised $2,800 after expenses for the cancer foundation.

It was the school’s first White Out and the girls sold nearly 350 shirts at $10 each.

Shirts were sold mainly at school, but the girls had order forms at each game where people could obtain them for the big night.

“I thought it was a good response for the sale,” Swanson said.

Richards, daughter of Tom and Carol Richards of Dunlo, said the project became much more than a fundraiser.

“We started this for our senior project, but it turned into so much more,” she said. “We all learned a lot, raised money and raised awareness about breast cancer. But it became much more than just getting a credit for schoolwork.”

Between the junior varsity game and and the varsity tip-off, the four players did a presentation about breast cancer, the statistics, and how and where people may get help.

“Along with breast cancer awareness pamphlets, we also presented a short program stating facts about breast cancer.” Richards said.

Novotny, daughter of Allen and Diane Novotny of Summerhill, said she was grateful for people’s kindnesses.

S&S Custom Design, at 1246 Scalp Ave. in Richland Township, helped with the T-shirts.

“They had a special design that included a breast cancer awareness symbol,” Novotny said. “The T-shirt place was very generous in donating $1,300 toward the cost of the shirts.”

If people didn’t buy a shirt, the girls asked everyone to wear white during the game.

Pink uniforms also were purchased for the team to wear during the game.

“We sold chances for 25 cents in the elementary school that would allow winners to wear our game jerseys the day of the game,” Novotny said. “We used it as an added incentive to raise more money.”

Throughout the season, the girls displayed a pink basketball bank where anyone attending the basketball games could donate.

Carol Cecere, head girls basketball coach at Forest Hills, was impressed by the level of enthusiasm the girls showed in leading the campaign.

“On the night of the event, the girls decorated the gym, the hallway leading to the gym, and placed luminaries outside along the front of the school to celebrate the night,” Cecere said. “They had giveaways throughout the night, including an iPod shuffle.”

Walls, daughter of David and Joanne Walls of Salix, said she and her teammates were moved when they donned their pink uniforms for the game.

“When we put the uniforms on, there was a much different feeling,” Walls said. “It was an emotional night and different from a regular game.”

The opponent for the evening was the team from Central Cambria. Their fans also got involved by purchasing $1 paper basketballs that were hung on a wall to show support for the cause.

“We also gave away some free items like ‘Fight Like A Girl’ wristbands,” Walls said.

A memorable part of the evening occurred when those in attendance stood for a moment of silence for Patty Smith, a community member who passed away from breast cancer just two nights before the event.

Smith was the grandmother to Cara Baumgardner, as well as Tyler and Devon Smith, who are members of the junior high school girls and boys basketball teams, respectively.

“Prior to her death, Patty had donated some of her beautiful woodcraft art works to be chanced off at the game in order to support the fundraising effort,” Cecere said.

On the plus side, the Lady Rangers won the game, but even if they hadn’t, they still would be winners.

“It was a beautiful evening,” said Cecere. “I couldn’t ask for better teams and workers.”

For their efforts with the charity and awareness basketball game, Alexis Swanson, Nicole, Alexis Novotny and Kayla, are the Persons of the Week.

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