B y Matthew Saari
This year the Fair Haven boys and girls junior varsity and varsity basketball teams will be pairing with the Otter Valley teams to host the annual Coaches vs Cancer games, an event sponsored by the American Cancer Society to raise funds for a cause very dear to many members of the community, including players, faculty, parents and coaches.
This will be the second year Fair Haven has hosted the game. Previously Fair Haven had paired with Poultney, raising $1,500 two years ago. Last year, the first year Fair Haven sponsored the event, the event raised a whopping $5,000. This year the players and community expect to beat that and then some.
“Our goal again is $5,000 but we’re looking to beat it…there’s going to be Otter Valley boys and girls so there will be around eight teams fundraising,” said Kaleigh Brown, a sophomore at Fair Haven and girls basketball team member. This will mark Brown’s third year of involvement with the program.
The Fair Haven community has been rallying behind the cause each year, due in large part to several members and their loved ones being diagnosed with cancer.
“With my grandma battling for so long and the advances in treatments in the past 26 years, it’s nice to see so many people getting together and fundraising for a good cause,” said Brown. Sadly, Brown’s grandmother passed away last June.
The teams have had excellent results in the past due largely to their passion for the cause as well as galvanized support from the staff and community.
“The kids do a lot of the work,” said Mary Anne LaPlaca-Morse, a para-educator with Fair Haven School. Morse has been with the school for 15 years and helps organize the event.
“Both of my parents have passed away from cancer. They (the sports teams) used my mother’s room to get ready for games. Football, basketball, whoever needed it,” Morse said. The Fair Haven football field is named in honor of her father, Thomas E. LaPlaca, who was the football coach. The choral hallway in the school is named in honor of her mother, Fran LaPlaca, who was a music teacher at the school.
“Cancer has no discrimination,” Morse said, a fact that many members of the community know all too well.
Paige Manley, a Fair Haven girls basketball team member and participant in the Coaches vs Cancer event, was diagnosed with multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) on her eighth birthday.
“There was no place in the region at that time to treat it,” said Peg Manley, Paige’s mother. “We had to go to Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. It’s so rare, only about 300 recorded cases in the U.S., most nurses and doctors have never heard of it or treated it.”
MEN is passed on through genetics, those afflicted have a 50 percent chance of passing it onto their children. Once diagnosed with MEN, a patient can expect a lifetime of health issues.
“She (Paige) had her thyroid removed…she was a trooper, it never kept her down,” said Peg.
Ten years later, Paige is doing well but still needs to have follow-up visits at Dartmouth Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, as there are still no centers in the immediate region that are equipped to treat MEN. Both of Paige’s parents have been diagnosed with cancer in the past, with her father continuing to battle MEN.
The Coaches vs Cancer games are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 9, and Tuesday, Feb. 21. The boys will play on Feb. 9, the J.V. at 5:30 p.m. and varsity at 7 p.m. The girls will play Feb. 21 with the J.V. at 5:30 p.m. and varsity at 7 p.m.
Ticket and T-shirt sales, raffle proceeds and private donations will go towards continuing the work of the American Cancer Society. Private donations can be made out to the American Cancer Society and sent to Ali Jones, athletic director of Fair Haven Union High School.
B y Matthew Saari