OSWEGO — The Oswego High School and Fulton varsity track and field teams channeled the competitive forces of their area rivalry toward helping the fight against pediatric cancer.
The programs recently held a fundraiser contest to see which unit could raise the most money to donate to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which is a volunteer and donor-powered charity committed to funding childhood cancer research.
The teams raised a combined $2,400 in the donation drive that ended earlier this month. The initiative was held for the second time and the first since the spring 2019 track season.
“I’m a strong believer in community service and a strong believer in cancer research,” said Oswego varsity assistant coach, Dom Pike. “When kids are so willing to help like this, it’s amazing. This is kids helping kids.”
Athletes from each team simply asked community members for monetary donations of varying sizes — ranging from hundreds to a few dollars — over the course of several weeks.
The Buccaneers contributed more than half of the donations to take possession of the “Golden Shoe,” which is a sneaker spray-painted gold awarded to the team that raises the most. The symbolic trophy was introduced in the initial fund-raising challenge.
Oswego was fueled by the inspiration of Pike and Taylor, both of whom are cancer survivors.
“Times are tough right now and money is tight in a lot of places, and the kids still stepped up and wanted to help support the cause, so I think it just shows where their heart is and what kind of kids they are,” Oswego head coach Kristina Taylor said.
The Buccaneers gained added motivation from the promise made by administrator Penny Morley to shave her head if the combined total topped $2,200.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation often centers fundraising events around head-shaving, which is rooted in the initial formation of the charity and is done to show solidarity with kids facing cancer.
The plan was for Morley to fulfill her promise publicly at a spring sports pep rally this week with track competitors and other athletes and students present.
“She’s somebody that is all for helping however she can, and she said if we raised that amount, she would be willing to do that,” Taylor said.
“When she first told us $2,200, I was thinking: ‘Oh boy that’s going to be an awful lot of money,’ but the kids really did an awesome job, and I was so proud of them for raising as much as they did,” she added.
The initial fundraising competition in 2019, which raised more than $1,000, was started when both teams were connected to families that were stricken with childhood cancer and wanted to collectively help.
Taylor said that she is in remission after completing her final round of treatments earlier this year while Pike overcame pancreatic cancer roughly five years ago.
“I think it’s a little bit of a motivator for the kids, too, first with coach Pike and then me, it’s something that’s kind of close to our hearts as well,” Taylor said.
Pike has been an active member of the St. Baldrick’s committee for Oswego County over the past 15 years and the group typically conducts in-person fundraising events during the spring months.
They have raised $45,000 this year alone and more than $900,000 over a 16-year period.
“I never wanted to see a child go through what I went through,” Pike said of his efforts.
Oswego and Fulton coaches have discussed scheduling a regular season tri-meet with Central Square next year and utilizing the event as a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s, incorporating all three area teams.