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EDITORIAL: Childhood cancer game should shed light on how lucky we are

Submitted photo from The Twelfth Knight

TACKLING CANCER: The North Penn High School football players and coaches pose for a photo before their game against Pennridge on September 19. The game helped raised money and awareness for childhool cancer.

Kevin Manero, NPHS English Teacher, Knight Crier Adviser

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TOWAMENCIN- Kudos to the North Penn High School Key Club, Knights for Life, and the North Penn football program on big wins in Crawford Stadium. Last Friday night’s conference opener against Pennridge was an important game for the Knights’ win-loss record, but the records on childhood cancer may have been even more significant on that particular night.

While players were being tackled on the field, fans throughout Crawford Stadium were doing their part to tackle a disease that affects entirely too many children every year. In fact, the numbers are somewhat staggering.

These statistics provided by the NPHS Key Club tell the story:

  • Each school day, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer.
  • One in 330 children  will develop cancer by age 20.
  • Each year in the U.S. over 12,600 children are diagnosed with cancer.
  • Although the 5 year survival rate is steadily increasing, one quarter of children diagnosed with cancer will die 5 years from the time of diagnosis.
  • Cancer remains the number one disease killer of America’s children – more than Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Asthma and AIDS combined.
  • 80% of children have metastatic disease at time of diagnosis as compared to only 20% of adults.

At North Penn, many of us are lucky – lucky that we are healthy and lucky that we are part of a school community who’s largesse can make such a significant impact on important causes.

The North Penn Community can have a powerful effect on people in need, if for no other reason, through pure strength in numbers. The football booster club, The Twelfth Knight, collected over $900 from the evening’s 50/50 ticket sales, and donated its proceeds to the fight against childhood cancer. The NPHS Key Club sold T-shirts all week and throughout the game with those proceeds going to fight the disease as well. Knights for Life tossed gold footballs into the stands promoting awareness for the cause.  In one night, in one large community, at one heavily attended sporting event, a whole lot of good can happen. Friday night football games are big community draws, perhaps more so than any other school event, save graduation, and so taking advantage of that reality and raising money and awareness for a very important cause reveals how much good can come from high school sporting events.

While certainly the community and the fans in general had an opportunity to donate money to the cause, the impact for the athletes on the field may be just as great. Putting into perspective how lucky they are to be strong, healthy young men able to compete in such an atmosphere, events such as this cancer awareness game also go a long way in opening the eyes of the younger generations to how fickle life can be,  and how much they can do help those not so lucky. While it is easy to get so caught up in the wins, losses, playing time, newspaper headlines, and statistics, sometimes people have to step back and realize that just being fortunate enough to be able to put on a uniform and compete is something for which they should be very grateful.

On Friday, two kids who have not always been so lucky, Luca Paciente and Matt Knoebel, who have battled cancer for much of their young lives,  took the field with the Knights for the coin toss and had a chance to meet the players and coaches on the field before the game.

“It was a very special night for the players and coaches,” Knights coach Dick Beck said. “The two kids we had on the field were really an inspiration for our guys.”

The following is the text of an email sent from Cat Paciente, Luca’s mother,  to Beck following Friday’s game:

Wow was Friday night awesome!!!  The kids are talking about it today.;  How neat it was to go onto the field,  how nice all the big football players were,  how friendly and pretty all the girls were and how they helped to make Luca feel safe.  how exciting the game was and how fun it was jumping up and down trying to catch golden footballs. These are memories we will all cherish and we are so touched and honored to have been able to be part of such a special night. 

 Beyond the obvious – the gold signs, the t-shirts, the gold footballs (seriously so cool), the beads, the ribbons, the face paint, the gold ribbons on the helmets, the gold tape, your own choice of sweater – all of that was overwhelming and amazing, but something else struck me and I want to make sure you know we noticed this.  The students were all remarkable young men and women.  They were friendly, warm, polite, respectful and kind. So many people complain of high school kids today and I need to tell you every kid I encountered last night proved those cynics wrong.  It is a testament to you and the staff and you should all be proud.   

 I’m not  sure how to express our gratitude for what you, the North Penn High School football team, key club and all the staff and students accomplished on Friday night  The big lights were shining, but they were not only shining on a great football game they were shining on a sea of gold; they were illuminating the world of childhood cancer and bringing awareness to every person in attendance or within earshot. I cannot thank you all enough for this night full of emotion, camaraderie and wonderful memories.

 Go KNIGHTS!!

Mrs. Paciente’s words reflect not only deep appreciation, but should also remind all parents whose kids play high school sports just how fortunate they are to be able to see their kids in uniform with the opportunity to be on a team, to workout, to practice, and mostly to be healthy.  Her comments of gratitude to the NPHS students also further exemplify what a large student body and staff are capable of when coming together for a cause.

The fall sports season is in full gear and players and families are fully immersed in the wins, the losses, the minutes of playing time, the standings, and the intense competition. But perspective is important, and Friday night’s football game offered some of that. While athletes and families do not have to spend every moment counting their blessings, they should set some moments aside for that purpose. Luca Paciente and Matt Knoebel would probably give anything to put a uniform on some day, and Friday’s game goes a long way to making that more possible, and to making us all realize how lucky we are- lucky to be healthy and lucky to be able to help.

Football Team vs PRG

YELLOW OUT

Tackle for CC

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EDITORIAL: Childhood cancer game should shed light on how lucky we are