SCE tennis, ACC football making impact off the field

Updated 9/26/2013 4:12 PM
  • The St. Charles East girls tennis program has been busy helping others in the community this fall including making back packs for needy children and raising money for the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

    The St. Charles East girls tennis program has been busy helping others in the community this fall including making back packs for needy children and raising money for the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Photo courtesy of St. Charles East tennis

For years, decades, the St. Charles East girls tennis program has held a charity car wash. This year coach Sena Drawer and her team widened the scope.

The annual car wash, held the first weekend after school started, was the usual success. It raised around $1,000, of which $700 was diverted to the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which has a location in St. Charles.

Most of the remainder was used to purchase backpacks and school supplies for needy students. Suzanne Youngberg, mother of Saints senior player Jamie Youngberg, said Drawer was inspired by the work of a local chiropractic clinic that had collected those items for students who needed them.

After Saints senior Sam Maze purchased the supplies and 15 backpacks -- one for each girl on the varsity team -- she gave them to District 303 homeless liaison Stephanie Baxter to distribute.

"They thought it was a fantastic idea," said Suzanne Youngberg.

"We live in an area that's considered affluent, yet there are people who are not able to afford things like that," she said. "I think the girls can appreciate that they are doing something for somebody else instead of just for themselves. They enjoyed doing it, they really did want to help out."

Talk about good karma. Entering Wednesday the Saints were 7-1 and 4-0 against Upstate Eight Conference River Division opponents.

Suzanne Youngberg sees Drawer's positive impact up close. Jamie is her second daughter to play tennis for Drawer, following 2009 graduate and former Illinois State player Stephanie.

"Sena's been a terrific coach and mentor to these girls for all these years," she said. "All these girls respect Sena. She's just been a real good influence."

She's No. 1

On Wednesday in Rock Island against Cornell, Augustana senior No. 1 singles player Kim Sawyer, of Batavia, set the Vikings' all-time overall victories mark in women's tennis, singles and doubles combined. With her partner Aileen MacDonald at No. 2 doubles, she registered her 159th victory in an 8-0 match. Sawyer added a singles win to improve to 14-2 on the season.

Sawyer entered the season atop the leader board in singles victories and now has 96. She started her senior year ranked third in total victories at 138, 20 less than the 158 won between 1993-98 by Sarah Ainsworth, out of Moline. Overall, Sawyer's record is 160-53, 96-20 in singles.

The reigning College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin player of the year, Sawyer set the stage for Wednesday's record effort by winning four singles matches and two doubles matches at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Regional Championships. She also holds Augustana records for singles wins and career winning percentage at .828.

Now 9-0 overall and 4-0 in the CCIW, Augie is angling for an unbeaten conference campaign with final matches this weekend against North Central and Elmhurst. On Sept. 14 the Vikings beat Wheaton College 6-3. It was the first time the women had beaten Wheaton in 18 straight matches dating to 1997, the last time they won the conference.

A new Charger

This is the third year Aurora Central Catholic will participate in the nationwide Coach to Cure MD event, a partnership between the American Football Coaches Association and Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, the largest national charity devoted exclusively to Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

This Friday, ACC coach Brian Casey said, there will be a more personal side to it.

Logan Mitzel, a 14-year-old freshman with Duchenne, will serve as an honorary Chargers team captain during the opening coin toss and on the sideline for Friday's game against St. Edward.

"I'm grateful to Brian and the school for giving him this opportunity to be with the team and be involved with the experience," said Logan's father, Scott.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy, according to the Coach to Cure MD website, is the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed during childhood. Caused by an X-chromosome defect and therefore found primarily in boys, the defect prevents the body from producing dystrophin, a protein Scott Mitzel said is responsible for building and maintaining muscle.

Coach to Cure MD said progressive muscle weakness causes lack of mobility and decline in respiratory and cardiac function. There is no cure and no treatment to stop its progression. Life expectancy is in the mid-20s.

Logan was first diagnosed at age 4, and stopped walking at 11.

"Beyond that he is a typical 14-year-old boy," said Scott Mitzel, of Aurora. "He loves video games, loves to swim. He went on a Make-A-Wish trip a couple years ago and got to swim with Michael Phelps."

Last Friday, for the Chargers' game against Chicago Christian, Casey noticed Logan was a typical 14-year-old boy.

"Friday for our first home game he watched the game from the stands with his dad, and in the second half he got a date for the homecoming dance," Casey said. "He's certainly got a personality that is very warm."

Casey and his father, Chargers quarterbacks coach Tim Casey, are both AFCA members, and had heard about Coach to Cure MD at the annual association convention.

Mainly college football programs have embraced the Coach to Cure awareness and fundraising campaign. Held once annually each of the past five seasons, in 2012 more than 10,000 college coaches and 580 colleges participated, and more than $1 million has been raised toward Duchenne research. Aurora Central Catholic is one of only four Illinois high schools to participate along with Jacobs, Prairie Ridge and Rockford Christian. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas have the most high schools enrolled.

"It's all about trying to raise awareness of the disease," said Scott Mitzel.

When he heard ACC supported Coach to Cure MD, Mitzel -- a "sports nut" -- informed Casey he had a new student with Duchenne in the school. They spoke about Logan's possible participation with the team, and at Tuesday's practice Logan shook hands with the team for the first time.

"He certainly has a smile on his face, he talks to a lot of our kids," Casey said. "He certainly has a personality that a lot of our students are kind of gravitating towards."

Casey said after Friday's Coach to Cure MD event -- which will include announcements of the program, each ACC coach wearing a special patch on a shirt sleeve, some fundraising but mainly meant to raise awareness of Duchenne -- Logan will continue to be an active member of the program.

"We can do a lot to help him and he can do a lot to help us," Casey said.

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.