Northwestern Press

Tuesday, March 26, 2019
PRESS PHOTO BY ANNA GILGOFFLissa Opolsky responded to Joe Pleban’s email to play in the Hoops for Hope fundraiser. PRESS PHOTO BY ANNA GILGOFFLissa Opolsky responded to Joe Pleban’s email to play in the Hoops for Hope fundraiser.
Fitness and wellness teacher Jordan Smith is looking forward to playing basketball for the fundraiser hosted by Patty Mengel and NWL Student Council. Fitness and wellness teacher Jordan Smith is looking forward to playing basketball for the fundraiser hosted by Patty Mengel and NWL Student Council.

Basketball tourney to aid in fight against pediatric cancer

Thursday, January 10, 2019 by ANNA GILGOFF Special to The Press in Local News

On Jan. 19, the community will have the opportunity to witness Tiger tenacity on the basketball court in the fight against pediatric cancer.

In an event called Hoops for Hope, Northwestern teachers and students will channel their energy as they go toe-to-toe for a shared cause.

Student Council, under the direction of adviser Patty Mengel, is sponsoring the event that will directly benefit Northwestern families affected by pediatric cancer.

“I pretty much wanted to do something based on the fact that we have Porter Lilley and Jess Williamson fighting the disease,” Mengel said. “There’s also Bobby DiGiacomo in the elementary. Sadly, we lost Wyatt [Newhard].”

Mengel also wants to make a donation to Dave Krum’s family, via Gavin and Dylan’s Rainbow Foundation.

“Both of them succumbed to cancer,” Mengel said.

Student Council members have been mobilizing to make the event a success.

“Joe Pleban volunteered, and he has been spearheading the event,” Mengel said.

“We put the Student Council kids into the committees.”

“I knew something of the people who have been affected by pediatric cancer,” Pleban said.

“Jess was a basketball player last year. As part of Student Council, I just kept on thinking about how to make this work.”

Mengel and Student Council are working with the Angel 34 Foundation, headed by Doug Sheriff, who lost his daughter, Nicole, to cancer almost 15 years ago.

“They do a lot to help out families,” she said. “They’re the go between.”

Nicole Sheriff, who began the Angel 34 Foundation, had a five-point mission: to provide ICEE machines to children’s hospitals; to help families with medical costs, to assist with pet therapies; to help medical staffing through scholarships and to provide financial assistance for cancer research.

Doug Sheriff spoke with The Press on Jan. 9.

He said Nicole discovered the slushies from ICEE machines help offset the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

When she returned from treatment at CHOP, she spoke to field hockey teams in District 11 before and after the games she would play.

Within a month and a half, through her efforts, $15,000 was raised to purchase ICEE machines.

“Angel 34 directly impacts our families with paying bills,” Mengel said. “We’re going to raffle off a big-screen TV.

“We will also have themed basket raffles.”

And, T-shirts will be sold, also.

“I have a committee of about 15-20 students and we’ve met a few times,” Pleban said. “We have individual committees for the raffles. I think it will be a really fun event.”

According to Mengel, teachers will face off against students in the first half to be followed by two, 10-minute youth games featuring elementary and middle school students, before the teachers and students finish their game.

Fourth-year wellness and fitness teacher Jordan Smith is looking forward to playing.

“I love basketball and being active, so when Joe Pleban sent an email to all the teachers, I just had to respond,” he said. “It’s a pretty mixed bag from all the departments and from the other schools and includes some teachers with basketball background playing and others with no experience playing.”

English teacher Lissa Opolsky also responded to the email.

“It’s going to be a fun chance to do something different,” she said.

“When I was in high school, I put something like this together at Crestwood High School. It was a Hoops for Hope, but we had area police officers play against the teachers.

The teachers have had several practices Smith describes as “more like an open gym.

“We just pretty much show up at 5:45 a.m. and play for about an hour,” Smith said. “Mike Sikora put it all together.

“It’s kind of nice being able to talk and socialize outside the school setting.”

Pleban said it is not often students and teachers play on the court.

“It’s going to be a great time,” Pleban said. “It’s something the whole community could enjoy on a Saturday night.”

“Considering how much pediatric cancer is affecting this community, it’s kind of a big deal for us.

“Actually, doing something is a step forward.”

Doors open at 6 p.m. Jan. 19. The game is set to start at 7 p.m. in the high school gym.

Tickets will be sold at the door. They are $3 for students and $5 for adults.