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February 3, 2013

Persons of the Week: Icing illness: Pair carry on tradition of annual charity game

JOHNSTOWN — The Ferndale Area High School hockey team has two goals in mind when it takes the ice Friday at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena.

One is to defeat the Conemaugh Valley Blue Jays. The other is to raise money to fight Lafora disease.

Known as the Jess Ambroe Classic, the game, in its third year, starts at 8 p.m.

Two senior hockey players – Tyler Smith and Tanner Murphy – are taking a regularly scheduled game and turning it into an event to raise money for Chelsea’s Hope, an organization supporting the research to conquer Lafora.

Lafora, a form of epilepsy, is a progressive disease that has affected Jess Ambroe, a 2012 graduate of Ferndale. Ambroe was diagnosed with the disease in 2009.

“I’m really excited about the game and being able to help the Ambroe family,” Tyler said.

Although all the proceeds go to Chelsea’s Hope, the event helps the Ambroe family by letting them know that others care about Jess, he said.

“This year it (game) is going to be really big,” Tyler said, adding that they have many nice gifts to raffle off at the game.

The Ambroe family, along with residents and businesses from Ferndale, Johnstown and the West Hills have donated gifts, he said.

Tyler said he and Tanner worked hard for two months, soliciting the gifts, which came from as far as sports teams in Pittsburgh.

Tyler said other Ferndale students will be helping at the game.

The Johnstown Tomahawks also have been very supportive, Tanner said. They are planning to help in ways such as setting up for the game.

Christian recording artist Noel McLeary of Ligonier is donating her time to sing the national anthem, he said.

“It’s important for us to carry on the tradition that my brother, Devin Murphy, and Donny Blasko started two years ago,” Tanner said, referring to the Ferndale hockey players who started the event.

“It feels good to be able to help Jess and her family out in any way that we can,” he said.

“Because the proceeds are going to Chelsea’s Hope, it’s going toward the type of epilepsy that she has. We feel it eventually will come back to help her and even find a cure.”

He said his parents, Robin and Jack Murphy, have been a big help.

Tyler said his mother, Glenda Novotny, and stepfather, Jeff Novotny, also have been instrumental in the project.

Both said they couldn’t have done the project without the help of their adviser, Josh Mottillo.

For their efforts with the charity game, Tyler and Tanner are the Persons of the Week.

Mottillo said Tyler and Tanner are doing a good job of organizing the game and have about 50 gift baskets to raffle.

“We’re anticipating our largest crowd yet,” he said, adding that last year’s attendance was about 1,000.

The game raised a total of about $14,000 in its first two years, Mottillo said. The students are hoping to raise between $7,000 and $8,000 at Friday’s game, he said.

Tribune-Democrat editors select a Person of the Week from nominations made by readers. To nominate someone, call 532-5058, 24 hours a day.

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