Softball teams ‘knock out’ cancer

While perhaps not unprecedented, it was certainly unusual for girls softball games to be played with pink softballs; but that’s what happened Saturday during the knock out cancer event held in Bremen.
The big 14U game between the Bremen Knock-outs and the Nappanee Storm was played to celebrate the lives of those who have beat cancer, in remembrance of others who lost their battle against the disease, and as a fundraiser to help save lives in the future.
The idea for the event that included a two-mile charity walk, cancer survivor and remembrance ceremony, balloon launch and softball game was spearheaded by Fox 28 Sports Director Dean Huppert. Huppert is also an assistant coach for the Bremen Knockouts.
“At Christmas when each of the girls on the team received a pink Knockout Cancer T-shirt, the enthusiasm for the event started to rise” Huppert said, adding that he couldn’t say enough about the work of the team in preparing for the event that raised some $6,000 that will be donated to the Community Hospital of Bremen toward the purchase of digital mammography equipment.
“The girls all showed up at 2 p.m. today to start blowing up balloons for the ceremony launch. They spent hours cleaning up Jane’s Park since the walk would pass by there,” said Huppert.
Jane’s Park was named for the late Bremen resident Jane Sieg Stillson who lost her battle with cancer after making the decision to forego treatment to save her then unborn child.
Huppert said part of the idea of the event was to raise awareness of the need for early detection of breast cancer. During the week before the event, team members were given a tour of the hospital and given information on the need for mammograms.
Fifteen staff members of the hospital were actively involved in the event by manning the silent auction, providing cancer related information, and a host of other duties.
Helping to start the charity walk was 12-year-old cancer survivor Evan Johnson of Argos. When Evan was 10, a chest X-ray to determine why he continued to have a cough and cold symptoms after having what they thought was the routine flu showed a mass in his lungs.
He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and treated at Riley Hospital For Children in Indianapolis. Now, he is cancer free.
Evan said, “You need to stay strong, just get through it and believe in yourself.”
He added, “So many people came to help me beat it and I wanted to help others beat it too.”
Evan’s parents, Bruce and Kerry Johnson, and brothers Kyle and Kurt believe his recovery was due in part to Evan’s attitude.
Although it was the final weekend before the start of football season, two Notre Dame players were on hand to support the event. Quarterback Dayne Crist and center Braxton Cave participated in the opening ceremony. Cave spoke of his grandmother’s battle with breast cancer and encouraged those attending to do all they can to help fight the disease. Crist said, “This is an amazing event. We are very humbled to be part of it. Notre Dame football players work very hard, but it doesn’t compare with the struggles anyone with cancer goes through.”
Also getting the walkers off was Huppert’s friend Kris Verash and Fox 28 Sports Anchor Allison Hayes. Both have been a part of the planning for the event. Verash said the event took on a deeper meaning for him since he recently learned his girlfriend has cancer.
Addressing the crowd prior to the game, Huppert said, “You never know when cancer is going to hit your family.”
He shared that his father had cancer in the 1990s. He said, “We are all here for one cause. No one has given up hope.”
Leading the survivor walk was Huppert’s mother who is a breast cancer survivor. Other survivors of the disease walked the bases representing the different plateaus in beating the disease. While the survivors were walking, balloons were let go to remember those who have lost their cancer battles.
Huppert said he was inspired by the way the North Judson girls basketball team rallied around one of their own when she was diagnosed with bone cancer. He said, “Ashley Derrickson wasn’t able to play her freshman or sophomore years, but did get a chance to make a memorable point during her junior year.”
The teenager eventually lost her life to the disease. Her parents, Mike and Sheri Derrickson, were at the Bremen event Saturday to support other families and encourage awareness for finding a cure.
The Bremen Knockouts and coaches Mike Huppert, Beth Huppert, Jamie Czarnecki, Matt Gilley, Dean Huppert and Mitch Huppert shared their gratitude saying, “The Bremen Knockouts would like to thank all cancer survivors for giving us hope. We’d also like to remember those how have passed for giving us a fighting spirit.”