Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/29/10
Courtesy of SuburbanOneSports.com
Marie Schmucker emerged from the sea of pink lacrosse jerseys with tears streaming down her face.
The veteran coach had just accepted a check from coach Dave Sowers on behalf of his boys’ lacrosse squad for $2,000 made payable to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and Schmucker, who coaches both the girls’ lacrosse and field hockey teams at Hatboro, needed just one word to describe Tuesday night’s ‘Think Pink’ Suburban One League contest.
“Breathtaking,” was all she said of the Hatters, the United Sports Team of the Week.
It was all she needed to say about a night that culminated with the check presentation and the boys’ squad gathered in a huddle around Schmucker, who herself had just returned to the sidelines last fall after an 18-month battle with breast cancer. Hatboro-Horsham won the game, 13-0, but that was secondary.
“It’s such a special thing,” Sowers said of the night. “I keep saying – we play such a silly game in between these lines. The game is life, and this was just a great opportunity to show our kids what it’s about.
“Before we came out, I said to them, ‘It’s more important to me not that we win this game but the husband, the son, the father you will be in 20 years.’ Marie is such a fighter, and I thanked her for giving us the opportunity to show these boys – sometimes things are going to happen in your life, but what do you do? You fight. That was the theme tonight.”
Schmucker knows all about fighting. She’s been fighting the battle of her life ever since Feb. 5, 2008, when she first received word that she had breast cancer, and although she is once again the picture of health, Schmucker is continuing her battle with the disease as she raises funds to participate in the 3-Day Walk for the Cure in October.
“Dave (Sowers) came up to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for fighting. It’s important that you keep fighting,’” Schmucker said. “It’s like I tell the girls every day, ‘You’re out on this field, and you don’t let up. You fight the fight.’ It’s the power of the mind. In athletics, you don’t give up, and that transfers into lifelong lessons that we teach our kids. That was my lifelong lesson – don’t you dare give up.
“I took on this journey like I was training again for the U.S. Team. You don’t give up.”
Schmucker was presented with her own commemorative pink jersey with her name and the number 35 – her number during an All-American career at Temple – emblazoned on it.
“This is something I will treasure,” said Schmucker of her jersey.
The Hatters’ coach had herself a remarkable collegiate career wearing the number 35. A three-time All-American, she excelled in both field hockey and lacrosse. She was a key part of two NCAA National Championships in women’s lacrosse at Temple and was the MVP of the 1984 National Tournament. She is a member of Temple’s Lacrosse Hall of Fame and is a former member of the U.S. National Field Hockey team.
“I don’t think this disease realized what body it crawled into with her,” Sowers said. “That disease is probably sitting in her right now going, ‘What did I bring on?’ She’s just a strong person.”
Tuesday’s event was organized by boys’ assistant coach Jacquie Beck, who has plenty of experience doing that sort of thing. It was Beck who was the captain of Team Andress, an effort that raised over $70,000 for brain cancer research. Andress, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago, is a former U.S. Lacrosse Team member who played for Penn State and is now the coach at Penn State-Abington.
“This exceeded expectations – it really did,” said Beck, who coached with Schmucker before joining the boys’ program. “The lacrosse community – it’s one sport, and we really proved it tonight that we’re one family.
“The boys came to play tonight, and they have really embraced this whole fundraising event with every ounce of what they had. Kudos to the kids because our goal and our dream is find a cure for this disease in our lifetime.”
Ten dollars of each lacrosse jersey sold went toward ‘Marie’s Mission: Pay it Forward.’ For the past several weeks, the lacrosse team also sold pink shoelaces with the theme ‘Stomp out Breast Cancer.’
“We got all the kids in the Hatboro-Horsham School District to get on the pink shoelace bandwagon, and now you’ll see hundreds of kids walking around with these pink laces,” Beck said. “It’s just a small piece, but it all counts.
“The pink is creating an awareness that we want to do something to get this disease under control and find a cure for it.”
Prior to the game, senior Dino Vitale escorted Schmucker, his former health teacher at Keith Valley Middle School, onto the field for a brief ceremony.
“When I had her for health, all we talked about was lacrosse, lacrosse, lacrosse,” the Hatters’ senior goalie said. “When I heard I was going to walk her out, I teared, honestly, because she meant so much to me in middle school.
“She was an inspiration to me growing up. She really helped make me into who I am. This meant a lot. I haven’t seen her in a while, and I just love to see her smile.”
Schmucker was smiling a whole lot on Tuesday night, and she smiled as she recounted her walk onto the field with Vitale.
“He put his arm around me and before we walked out, he said, ‘I just want to thank you. You taught me so many lifelong lessons,’” she said. “It was so emotional for me.
“As a teacher, you think, ‘Can I reach one or two kids?’ It was just really neat. Each one of the boys and the coaching staff – their support has been overwhelming.”
Junior Kyle Peters also had a special moment when he escorted his mother, Barbara Peters, onto the field. Last week Barbara completed her 12th of 12 chemotherapy treatments in her battle with breast cancer.
“I was really proud of my mom for finishing off her treatments and fighting through it,” Peters said. “She didn’t let it faze her in front of the family, and she stuck it out like a champ.
“Being able to walk her out on the field – it touched me.”
Peters acknowledged that witnessing Schmucker’s battle has been an inspiration as well.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “Just to see that you can fight through something like that and still have a smile on your face that you’re still going to do what you do and fight through it.”
As for his pink jersey, Peters considered it a treasure.
“I love it,” he said. “I’m going to keep it forever.”
Also prior to the game, Jimmy and Jake Durkins honored their grandmother, Midge Fry, who is a breast cancer survivor, and the Hatters also remembered an important member of their lacrosse family who is no longer with them. Melissa ‘Missy’ Wilkocz, the sister of assistant coach Josh Wilkocz, lost her battle to brain cancer seven years ago. Her headstone is located at the north end of the lacrosse field.
It was all part of a very special evening for everyone involved.
“I’m honored that an event like this has occurred,” Schmucker said. “It’s been very overwhelming. My mission ‘Pay it Forward’ was to get more teams involved, and I think it’s going to be a domino effect. The softball team is going to Play for the Cure, and if I can just get a couple of teams each year, someday we will find a cure.”
Each member of Schmucker’s 3-Day Walk for the Cure team must raise $2,300. To receive additional information or to donate to the cause, click on the following link: http://www.hatboro-horsham.org/4067404268722/blank/browse.asp?A=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&C=55679
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