Game supports cancer patients

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T-shirts are on sale now for the eighth annual Darden Middle School Cancer Awareness Games.

The Darden Middle School Trojans and Forest Hills Middle School Bucks boys and girls basketball teams will compete in the event.

Eric Lyons, student intervention specialist and a basketball coach at Darden, said proceeds raised through T-shirt sales will be donated to a cancer survivor or a family who has suffered a loss due to cancer.

“We just try to take care of our own, and this is a way that we can show those cancer survivors that we care and that we are just trying to give back to the community,” Lyons said.

The Bucks have competed against the Trojans every year since the event started.

“They have been very understanding,” Lyons said. “The staff over there has bought in and they have purchased T-shirts, and it has just become a huge event.”

Last year, proceeds went to the Toisnot Middle School athletic department in honor of John Nichols, who died unexpectedly in 2018 due to complications from pancreatic cancer. Nichols had been the school’s soccer coach and athletic director.

Lyons said students take pride in the cancer awareness games.

“If there is anybody that wants to be involved and come and watch a good competitive basketball game for a good cause, they should come out,” Lyons said.

The girls will play at 4 p.m., and the boys will follow about 5:15 on Jan 23.

Cancer survivors are honored between the game, usually around 5 or 5:15.

“We get them to come down to the center of the court, and we will make a small donation to them and just make them feel loved for at least two or three minutes and let them know they have got some support,” Lyons said.

Lyons said the annual games started after the death of his sister-in-law.

“My sister-in-law, Tamara Everette, my wife’s sister, passed away at the age of 30,” Lyons said. “Once I became the girls basketball coach here, what better way to keep her name alive and to keep her presence known? She was the first one that we honored. After that it just kind of took off.”

Everyone, Lyons said, is affected by cancer in some way.

“I have brothers who have suffered from cancer,” Lyons said. “Anybody and everybody who reads the newspaper has had somebody who has been affected by cancer, so it is just a way to bring awareness to it.”

During the week of the game, teachers at the school hold a lesson to talk about cancer and how dreaded it is and how much of an effect it has on everybody.

“In my coaching, I want my student-athletes to know that life is bigger than baseball, basketball or football,” Lyons said. “There is always life after that. You are not going to play until you are 100.”

Lyons said sports can be a good vehicle to spread the word about cancer.

“What I want to get them to understand is that through sports, you are able to tap into a lot of different people,” Lyons said. “You have got coaches. You have athletes who have played the game and people who for some reason who are drawn to sports. What better way to get the message out than through sports? That’s what I try to teach any kid that I come into contact with. Life is bigger than sports. It can be taken away from you at any point in time. Same thing with cancer.”

Admission to the game is $5 for adults and $3 for students.

T-shirts are $10 for sizes small to extra large and $15 for larger sizes.

Orders are due by Jan. 17 at noon. Contact the school at 252-206-4973 to purchase a shirt.