Coaches vs. Cancer
Cheers could be heard coming from the gym at Forest City-Dunbar Elementary School on Tuesday as students enjoyed a special visit from the East Rutherford High School boys basketball team.
The team did lay-ups, shot 3-pointers and dunked for the students in an effort to raise cancer awareness.
"The reason we are here is to try to save somebody from this terrible disease," Brad Levine, head coach of the basketball team said.
The Cavaliers are one of 10 programs in North Carolina chosen to compete in the Coaches vs. Cancer high school invitational tournament which will be held on the campus of UNC Asheville Nov. 29-30 and will raise money for the American Cancer Society. The East Rutherford team was invited to play in the tournament by Brian Carver, president of the coaches association at Enka High School, who played for Levine when he was an assistant coach at Enka.
"All the basketball coaches got together and we thought of this idea several years ago. It's kind of been a dream that we said we could do," Levine said. "This is the first time any sport in North Carolina has done a tournament (for cancer research). There's been a single volleyball game, a single softball game or football or basketball, but there's never been a tournament as such and this is the first time this is going to take place. So it's pretty special."
The team is trying to raise money and awareness before the tournament by getting other schools involved. They have visited all of the schools in the East district; Ellenboro Elementary, Sunshine Elementary, Forest City-Dunbar Elementary and East Rutherford Middle School; to share their fundraising goal and to encourage the students to donate to the cause. Donation boxes have also been placed in the front offices at each of those schools for anyone wishing to give.
"I tell the guys 'One day you are going to have to put the basketball up, but the one thing you may remember are times like this when you see the little smiles on the kids' faces because they are so excited," Levine said. "Especially at these elementary schools when we go in and they see these guys, they'll not forget them. It's moments like this they won't forget."
During each school visit, members of the team do basketball demonstrations and talk to the young students about the importance of staying in school and getting good grades. Devonte Boykins, who recently signed to play basketball at Georgia Southern University, talked about his goals and how grades are important.
"To come out and know that they look up to me, it feels really good," Boykins, who attended Forest City-Dunbar when he was young, said. "It's good to give back to the community and come back to where you started from. To come back to your roots and tell them how you've prospered."
Team member Travis Waldroup-Rodriguez told the students that the Coaches vs. Cancer cause was dear to his heart because he lost his best friend and cousin to cancer at the age of 12. He said that is the reason he wants to be a doctor in the future. He recently wrote a research paper on cancer.
"You're not just supposed to be aware of it when you have it, you are supposed to be aware in general and I think it's good to involve kids and their parents because the more people you can touch with it, the more help you can possibly do," Waldroup-Rodriguez said. "You have to teach young generations to grow up with certain things in mind. Just through my research I learned that childhood cancer is the number one cause of death in children. You don't want to scare kids but you do want to put that awareness."
Levine also spoke to the students about cancer and encouraged each of them to donate at least $1 to the fundraiser. The money will be collected on Monday, Nov, 25 and presented to the American Cancer Society during a dinner on Friday, Nov. 29 before the tournament begins on Saturday, Nov. 30. It will be presented in memory of Charles Toms, a long-time teacher and principal of Sunshine Elementary School. Levine didn't set a goal for the amount he wanted to raise.
"I just want to try to help cure cancer," Levine said.
At the end of the presentation on Tuesday, team members helped students load the buses and get into their cars to end the day.
"I don't know who enjoys it more, the boys or the kids. But it's good for me, it's good for my heart," Levine said.
If anyone is interested in donating to the Coaches vs. Cancer fund, contact Levine at East Rutherford High School at 828-245-6424.