On Tuesday, Corona del Mar High will play Edison at Orange Coast College in a nonleague boys' volleyball match that starts at 6 p.m.
The event is far more important than a simple high school volleyball match. Coaches Steve Conti (CdM) and Brian Boone (Edison) have established the game as the McKenna Claire Challenge. All funds from the gate and the snack bar as well as donations will go to the McKenna Claire Foundation for Pediatric Brain Cancer.
McKenna (Macky) Wetzel was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor Jan. 21, 2011. She passed away on June 21, 2011. She was 7 years old.
Dave and Kristine Wetzel, McKenna's parents, are both former Edison athletes. Kristine was a swimmer, while Dave was an outstanding setter on the boys' volleyball team.
Actually Newport Harbor girls' volleyball coach Dan Glenn was Dave's high school coach when Dave was named the Orange County Player of the Year for the Chargers in 1985. Dave continued his volleyball career at UCSB.
When the MRI about McKenna's tumor was read, Dave and Kristine were obviously overwhelmed. Determined to enjoy and love the last days of McKenna's short life, they vowed to focus on helping others who might follow with a similar disastrous life-changing tragedy.
They formed the McKenna Claire Foundation with the goal to raise funds for research of pediatric brain cancer. They wanted to create support for finding a cure for pediatric brain cancer and to celebrate McKenna's passion for life by providing others with opportunities.
They arranged for McKenna's tumor to be donated to researchers at Stanford University who are on the cutting edge of pediatric cancer research. The research of the tumor has produced extremely positive results which the researchers feel may provide future methods to curb this disease from spreading.
Bill Wetzel, Dave's father, was a longtime coach and administrator at Estancia High. A former athlete at Newport Harbor, Bill and his brother, Bob, were instrumental in the growth of volleyball in our area.
The hope for the foundation is for support from the volleyball community as they work to raise funds for the research.
We need to support this.
As Dave grieves, I asked him how he makes it. He talked about his father and his father's guidance through all of his life. Having known the Wetzels for many years, there are many who understand this guidance and direction.
That has helped with forming the foundation. More information on the foundation can be found at facebook.com/McKennaClaireFoundation.
CHARLIE BRANDE is a former volleyball head coach at UC Irvine, Newport Harbor High and Corona del Mar.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun