District 204's softball teams are about to put a new, nice spin on rivalry week.
The three Valley schools -- Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley and Metea Valley -- will join together for a three-day Strike Out Cancer event Monday through Wednesday. To show their support of cancer awareness, the school's jersey color each day will match their cancer awareness color. Waubonsie is wearing pink for breast cancer awareness, Neuqua red supporting the American Cancer Society and Metea teal for ovarian cancer awareness.
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The genesis of the idea started at Waubonsie, which is hosting the event Monday and Tuesday. Second-year Warriors coach Alyson Kelley looked at the upcoming schedule and saw a perfect fit with the two sister schools.
"That's what makes this so appealing is that we are rivals, but we are coming together for a common cause," Kelley said. "It's nice to see our community come together for something like this."
Kelley can only hope it comes together like it did at Neuqua Valley two years ago.
Neuqua hosted a Strike Out cancer event two years ago for a night game against Downers Grove South. It drew a huge crowd on a warm, windy spring evening, a memorable night capped off by Leigh Nebendahl's walk-off homer.
Second-year Neuqua coach Melissa Wilson was an assistant at the time and jumped at the chance to join Waubonsie and Metea for a similar event.
"That was a wonderful experience for our girls, and I wanted them to have a chance to do it again," Wilson said. "Aly came up with the idea, and it's a cool thing to do it with all the Valley schools. When Aly told me about it, we were all onboard."
It is a cause that hits close to home for many involved.
Kelley's grandmother and aunt are both breast cancer survivors and and her assistant survived ovarian cancer; Kelley's aunt just went through her last round of chemotherapy a couple weeks ago. Metea assistant Val Wood lost an aunt to ovarian cancer. In Waubonsie's program alone 15 girls have had relatives or friends survive or pass away from breast cancer, and more than 20 girls in the program have a family member that has been affected by one form of cancer.
"It's a long list," Kelley said. "It's something my girls are very passionate about."
Kelley said Waubonsie has already sold 250 T-shirts for the event, Metea 270 and Neuqua more than 300. T-shirts and headbands will also be sold the days of the game. Waubonsie is hosting Neuqua on Monday and Metea on Tuesday, with Neuqua playing at Metea on Wednesday.
Kelley hopes to have cancer survivors each day to throw out the first pitch -- with a pink softball -- and have each player sign the softball to commemorate the event.
Kelley, a Waubonsie grad, said the rivalry has a different feel to it since her playing days, and causes like this promote that. In March the District 204 and District 203 soccer programs got together for a similar event at North Central College.
"We still have that rivalry, Waubonsie versus Neuqua, but it doesn't feel as harsh," Kelley said. "Now I feel more positive thoughts about playing Neuqua. Teaching the girls to give back to the community, and to be an active part of the community, is what is most important."
For more information about the event, or those who are interested in sharing a personal story regarding breast cancer, please contact Alyson Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org.