Four years ago, Anoka Tornado football player Dylan Witschen began a courageous battle with brain cancer. That battle ended when Dylan died June 8, 2010.
For Dylan’s teammates, his fierce and courageous battle ignited a fierce and passionate determination to raise awareness, raise funds and raise support for cancer patients of all sorts. And so, over the years Tornado football players and the Anoka High School family have devoted countless hours and energy to raising funds and support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the medical facility where Dylan received his cancer treatments.
This year, the Tornadoes are going even further, joining up with four other local teams and 89 teams statewide in an effort to “Tackle Cancer.”
You see, the Minnesota Football Coaches Association (MFCA) has teamed up with the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund this September to Tackle Cancer.
Each Tackle Cancer team designates at least one September game night to raise funds for cancer research and community support.
Andover, Blaine, Coon Rapids and St. Francis are the other local teams involved in the initiative.
“We feel it is a great cause and there are many people in need of help so it is a natural tie-in for us to do anything we can to help the cause,” said Tornado football head coach Jeff Buerkle.
Anoka’s cheerleading advisor Kim Heckmann detailed additional features of Anoka’s Tackle Cancer participation.
“The cheer team and special needs cheer squad – Sparkles – will be sporting black shirts with the Tackle Cancer logo for the evening,” Heckmann said, adding that the entire student body will be showing their support by wearing all black for the Tackle Cancer game and calling it a “black out against cancer.”
The Anoka Twisters dance team is getting in on the act, too, collecting donations after their half time performance, Heckmann said.
Andover’s involvement with Tackle Cancer began last month when the football staff organized and hosted a Mom’s Football Clinic, an event which collected some $500 in donations for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.
Andover head coach Rich Wilkie said Husky football players are also selling Tackle Cancer T-shirts with proceeds going to the Randy Shaver charity.
“We’ve had great response” to Tackle Cancer events and fund-raising, said Wilkie.
During each of the Tackle Cancer football games, donations will be collected at the gate for the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.
Northwest Suburban and North Suburban Conference football games tagged as Tackle Cancer contests are scheduled on the following dates. Kick off is at 7 p.m. for all games.
Anoka hosts Totino-Grace at Goodrich Field
Andover hosts Elk River at Husky Stadium
Coon Rapids hosts Champlin Park at Cardinal Stadium
St. Francis hosts Benilde-St. Margaret’s at Saints Stadium
Blaine hosts Coon Rapids at Bengal Stadium
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]