August 27, 2012

DRIVE OUT CANCER CHALLENGE: Schools team up to beat disease

By Matt DiFilippo mdifilippo@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

A crowd estimated at more than 3,000 people were at the Cony-Gardiner football game Friday night. Cony won the game and now the other fall sports are coming up.

The Drive Out Cancer Challenge, with proceeds going to the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta, continues today with several events in Gardiner. At 4 p.m., the volleyball teams will play. Cony agreed to play the Tigers although Gardiner's volleyball squad is a club level team and does not have official varsity status.

At 5 p.m. is a varsity girls soccer game at Hoch Field, and a cross coutry team relay from Augusta to Gardiner by way of the Kennebec River Rail Trail. There will be a putting contest between the golf teams at 6, and a varsity boys soccer game at 7.

On Tuesday, there are two field hockey games at Gardiner, with the junior varsity game at 5 and the varsity teams playing at 7.

This is the fourth year of the Drive Out Cancer Challenge. In 2009, field hockey coaches Moe McNally of Gardiner and Krista Chase of Cony came up with the idea of a preseason game so their teams could still play each other after Gardiner moved to Class B. Field hockey was the only sport in the event that year.

"I don't think in any way we ever thought it would be this big," said Sharon Gallant, the chairperson of the Drive Out Cancer Committee and Gardiner's JV field hockey coach. "There's just so many good people out there. It blows me away how willing people are to help out people in our community who have this God-awful disease."

Gallant said the goal is to raise a total of $20,000 from all the events and fundraisers. Numerous sponsors are helping out with the cause. Goggin's IGA of Randolph and The Red Barn of Augusta are selling paper ribbons. Darling's Ice Cream is at Gardiner on all three game nights, giving away ice cream and taking donations to give toward the cause.

The Ridin' Steel motorcycle group held bike nights in Freeport and Gardiner and will present a check with donations. The Gardiner city council recently donated $1,200.

A new twist this year is that the player of the game awards have a name. They will officially be called the Dan Paradee Most Valuable Player of the Game Awards. One is given to a player from each team in football, cheering, volleyball, girls soccer, boys soccer and field hockey.

Paradee was Gardiner's honorary captain at the 2010 Cony-Gardiner field hockey game, less than two months before his death at age 54 from pancreatic cancer. Paradee's daughter, Becca, was a standout on that Gardiner team and now plays at the University of Maine.

"He was amazing with our team," Gallant said. "It really was one of those amazing bonding times with our girls. For us, it was really special."

Gallant said the idea to name the award after Paradee actually came from last year's girls soccer team.

"That makes me cry, to think that it wasn't even a field hockey team that came up with that idea," Gallant said. "That's the kind of guy he was."

Each team will have honorary captains again this year. Gardiner's honorary volleyball captain is Kaleb Goodson, a student at Morse who dates a girl on the team. Gallant said Goodson lost an eye from his battle with retinal cancer.

The Gardiner boys soccer honorary captain is Art Warren, who is battling prostate cancer. Warren was the principal at the middle school from 1975 to 2008.

Cony's honorary captain at Tuesday's varsity field hockey game will be John Cameron, the grandfather of Cony coach Holly Daigle. Cameron, 87, is a Cony graduate whose cancer is in remission. Daigle will be escorting Cameron and his wife, Linda, to midfield.

"It'll be a really special event, and emotional, I'm sure," Daigle said.

Gardiner's honorary captain at the game will be Stella Hang, the 4-year-old daughter of former Gardiner teacher Stacey Huang. Stella was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia a week before her first birthday, but has made a full recovery.

"She's adorable," Gallant said. "She's such a little diva."

Gallant said that since Cony has low numbers, about eight Gardiner junior varsity players will play for Cony in Tuesday's game, giving everybody a chance to play. In the varsity game, Cony picked up its first win in the series last fall, and the Tigers are primed to reverse that outcome.

"Our kids are real excited," McNally said. "I fully expect that they're going to come at us, and we're definitely coming at them."

Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243

mdifilippo@centralmaine.com

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