While the spring sports season is likely canceled due to the coronavirus, the Mount Hebron and Centennial boys lacrosse teams are continuing their rivalry.
However, instead of competing on the lacrosse field, the two programs are coming together to face off in a challenge to raise money for cancer patients.
On Monday, the Vikings and the Eagles launched their “Suit Up Against Cancer” challenge to raise money for the Zaching Against Cancer Foundation. In less than 24 hours of the two-week challenge, more than $8,000 was raised.
“It’s been amazing so far,” said Mount Hebron senior lacrosse player Mateo Brown. “I appreciate what everyone’s done so far. We couldn’t have asked for anymore than what the community has done already. The money is great, but it’s not just about the money. It’s also about the awareness and spreading positivity. This is a trying time that we’re all going through right now, and a little bit of positivity goes a long way.”
The fundraiser is set to end on April 22, which was when the two rivals were scheduled to face off during the regular season before it was postponed. When donors give on the GoFundMe page, they can choose whether to donate for the Mount Hebron or Centennial side.
Both team’s players released videos to launch the “Suit Up Against Cancer” fundraiser on social media Monday 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.
“This might have a greater impact if we can get this thing to go viral than anything they could’ve done on the field,” said Mount Hebron lacrosse coach Mike McCarthy.
McCarthy thought of the fundraiser a few weeks ago when the outlook for the season was bleak. The Vikings run a Fight for 5 Tournament during the regular season, which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The tournament is in honor of Evan Nicholson, a former Mount Hebron lacrosse captain who died of cancer, and the team’s senior class was disappointed it wouldn’t have the opportunity to play in the tournament again.
“The tournament is one of my favorite things about lacrosse,” Brown said. “It’s not about winning; it’s about having fun and coming together for a bigger cause. I really wish we could’ve done that this year, but we had to find another way to come together for another cause we all believe in.”
McCarthy then pitched the idea to Centennial head coach Ken Senisi, who was excited for his program to take part in the challenge. Senisi taught Zachary Lederer, who the Zaching Against Cancer Foundation is named after, when he was in middle school and later coached him on the Centennial football team.
“Zach was a kid who was way beyond his years,” Senisi said. “He was mature kid, and he was great to be around. ... Being able to compete against each other in this fundraiser is a good motivator. There’s a lot of pride at both Mount Hebron and Centennial, so we’re excited to help out."
Lederer 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 had the idea because the kids are sitting around, and they don’t have competition. We’ll also miss our tournament and our fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and I thought about what we could do,” McCarthy said. “I reached out to Ken, and we thought a competition between the two schools to raise money for Zaching Against Cancer would be a great idea.”
“Something our whole team has been missing out on has been that feeling of being a team,” said Centennial senior lacrosse player Connor Carpenter. “When Hebron invited us to their fundraising event, it sparked something among us.”
So far, Mount Hebron leads the challenge by several thousand dollars. The Eagles released their video later than the Vikings, though, so Carpenter believes a comeback is in order.
“I know the Centennial side has been a little behind, but we’ll make it closer," he said. "It’s been great to see some of that support so far. This is a great cause, especially because Zach Lederer is a Centennial legend.”