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Fundraising challenge between Mt. Hebron, Centennial boys lacrosse teams raises $50,000

The Mt. Hebron and Centennial lacrosse teams combined to raise more than $50,000 for the Zaching Against Cancer Foundation.
The Mt. Hebron and Centennial lacrosse teams combined to raise more than $50,000 for the Zaching Against Cancer Foundation. (Baltimore Sun Media Group)

When the Mt. Hebron and Centennial boys lacrosse teams embarked on a fundraising challenge for the Zaching Against Cancer Foundation, the monetary goal was $10,000 — $5,000 from each team.

The “Suit Up Against Cancer" challenge, which featured online videos, workout challenges, head shaving and friendly competition between the two Ellicott City rivals, ended Wednesday with more than $50,000 raised.

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“The fundraiser showed how special this community is for a lot of us,” said Mt. Hebron boys lacrosse coach Mike McCarthy. “For people from all different generations from both schools to participate in the challenge and donate and share with their friends and family members was amazing.”

The fundraiser, which started on April 6, kicked off quickly with more than $8,000 raised in the first 24 hours. Both team’s players released videos to launch the “Suit Up Against Cancer” fundraiser on social media to promote the GoFundMe page with the hopes of creating an online challenge to reach more people. Vikings and Eagles players donned their uniforms and challenged friends, family and fellow student-athletes to do the same, with donation thresholds that would lead to players shaving their heads.

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Mt. Hebron won the challenge by raising $32,776 to Centennial’s $17,796 for a final total of $50,887 from more than 650 donors.

“Mt. Hebron and Centennial are right across the street from each other. We’re rivals, and we don’t want to lose to one another, but we’re also friends with each other and they’re still part of our extended family,” McCarthy said. “This showed that while we’re competitors on the field, we’re going to do anything we can to support our community off the field.”

The fundraiser also honored former athletes at both schools. Mt. Hebron holds an annual fundraiser tournament called the Fight for 5, which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of Evan Nicholson — a former Vikings lacrosse captain who died of cancer. For the Centennial community, the fundraiser was an opportunity to support the Zaching Against Cancer Foundation, which is named after Centennial alumnus Zach Lederer, who died in 2014 of brain cancer after going viral for “Zaching” — the nickname for a flexing pose he did after surgery. The Zaching Against Cancer Foundation provides support to cancer patients with scholarships, research and patient outreach.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a local fundraiser take off this quickly,” said Julia Lederer, Zach’s sister and the foundation’s Development and Marketing Coordinator. "We were hoping each team would raise 5,000 and that we’d get 10,000, so seeing that final total was great. It shows Howard County is a really tight-knit community. Our community is so strong, and that’s why I love about HoCo."

Julia Lederer said the $50,000 is even more important during the coronavirus pandemic. The foundation’s top fundraising event — the Living the Dream Gala — has been postponed due to the coronavirus.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we had our biggest fundraiser, which was supposed to be this weekend, get postponed,” she said. “We really needed this cushion. COVID-19 is still very real with our patients, and this money will really help them.”

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