Nancy Vance still sounded a little verklempt earlier this week as she described Saturday's Kick-A-Thon check presentation by the St. Charles East and St. Charles North Drill Teams.
"Every year they just surprise me with how tenacious they are and how dedicated they are and how successful they are," said Vance, executive director of the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva.
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"Every year I tell myself I'm not going to cry and every year I cry," she said. "They're so excited to share this with us and do this with us, and you see how much work and effort they put into it, and they're so happy to do it. It's very moving. It's good stuff, it really is good stuff."
This year's haul was the most Kick-A-Thon has produced in any of its 20 years raising funds for the American Cancer Society and, since 2006, also for LivingWell. Before Saturday's boys basketball game at St. Charles North against the visiting Saints, the drill teams unveiled the awesome figure of $100,000 to be split between the two charities courtesy of all involved in the Sept. 13 Kick-A-Thon at East.
"Definitely there was a loud applause," said Molly Craney, who with fellow St. Charles East co-chair Rosanne Grenfell and St. Charles North co-chairs Diana Artman and Donna Zoecher helped direct the effort, which beat the prior one-year donation record by nearly $20,000.
"I know the people from the American Cancer Society and LivingWell, they were in tears," Craney said. "They were very surprised at how much we were able to donate this year, just so grateful. They couldn't have been nicer and more appreciative if they tried. They were speechless, really."
Craney said the big boost in the donation was due to a record number of community kickers, more than 160, plus a record 34 corporate sponsorships, a couple of raffles and Drill Team car washes and the boon of a 20th anniversary that drew Drill Team alumni, pocketbooks in hand.
"I guess my biggest message I would like to send out to all the girls who worked on this event, all the corporate sponsors, the parents and the community as well," Craney said, "is that this huge amount would not be possible without everyone pitching in the way they did. I have heartfelt thanks for all those people because we just kind of coordinate the event but everybody pitches in and has a role. It's a big team effort and this was the biggest yet."
To date, Kick-A-Thon has donated $778,019.50. Unbelievable for a movement, as Vance said, that began as a fundraiser for drill team uniforms.
A Batavia resident, Vance said outside funding is essential to LivingWell, which has a budget of $1.5 million to run 63 programs and services. She said Kick-A-Thon donations have fully funded LivingWell's Culinary Comforts program, which the website describes as a four-week class that teaches healthy food preparation designed for cancer patients and their caregivers. Girls from the Drill Teams also do the set up and clean up, she said.
"They see first hand how their dollars are having an impact on our patients, which is awesome," Vance said.
So, as they say, after their biggest moneymaker in history what will the drill teams at St. Charles North and St. Charles East do for an encore next Oct. 17 at St. Charles North, the 21st Kick-A-Thon?
Inevitably it is the intent, and not a dollar amount, that is the goal.
"I think whatever they do next year is going to be fine. Whether they meet it, whether they beat it, whether they raise less, it doesn't really matter," Craney said. "I think the event teaches the girls the importance of giving back and learning what it's like to do something they're not used to doing, giving back to others. That's the message we want the girls to learn."
Four nights before Batavia graduate and Washington University freshman receiver Zach Strittmatter accepted one of five 2013 National High School Scholar-Athlete Awards by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in New York City, it was announced the Bulldogs have another local winner.
On the nomination of football coach Dennis Piron, senior quarterback Micah Coffey was selected on Dec. 6 to receive one of three NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards by the Chicago Metro Chapter. St. Edward's Collin Holte and Hiawatha's Mike Mercado were the other two. The awards are based on athletic and academic achievement and community service and citizenship.
Piron had a smorgasbord of qualifications to brag to the Metro Chapter about Coffey, a three-sport athlete recently named Daily Herald Tri-Cities All-Area Football Team co-captain with Bulldogs teammate Anthony Scaccia.
Among other accomplishments, the Minnesota baseball recruit has made Batavia's High Honor Roll all four years, a member of the National Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society with a weighted grade-point average of 4.2.
Coffey is a member of Batavia's Student Athletic Board, has addressed citizenship and respect in a speech at a Batavia grade school, is a group member in two churches and also on the Student Leadership Team at First Baptist Church in Geneva, and worked in a homeless shelter in Chicago.
That's the short list.
Coffey and the two other area choices each will receive a $5,000 college tuition scholarship and will be honored at the annual NFF-Chicago awards ceremony at Halas Hall in Lake Forest on Feb. 17, among a bevy of local football luminaries including Keith Van Horne, Johnny Lattner and Pat Fitzgerald.
Coffey also qualifies into the regional pool of winners who will vie for one of the five national spots Strittmatter won just this October.
That's breakfast, not fast break
Seeking to do some community service of their own, the St. Charles North boys basketball team will be volunteering Saturday at the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva. The effort was spearheaded by senior guard Keith Hedges.
ACT tests will be held at the school Saturday, but Hedges has lined up 15 of the team's 18 varsity players plus manager Austin Keen.
"I've gone there before," said Hedges, also a tennis player for the North Stars. "You pretty much just package and assemble boxes of food which go out to various locations. Some go to retirement homes and to kids who can't afford school lunches, stuff like that."
He's volunteered there before, but this is Hedges' first time leading a project.
"Hopefully this will get the situation going in the future. I think it'll be a good team bonding activity for sure," Hedges said.
Based on prior experience, the senior said after their shift is through workers at the Food Bank will tell the boys how many people could be fed through their efforts.
"When you finish it just feels good knowing that in just two and a half hours you can help a lot of people," Hedges said. "Especially if we have 15 kids, that can help a lot of people that are hungry."
The North Stars should have most shelf heights covered, with players like 6-foot-7 Chase Gianacakos and 6-4 Garrett Johnson and Camden Cotter able to reach the high stuff. More than two hours lifting and packing food by teenage boys tipping their own scales at more than 200 pounds figures to stir an appetite itself.
"We'll probably have to go out to lunch afterward because we have a lot of football guys. That'll probably get them pretty hungry," Hedges said.
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