Game Connects Athletes, Kids
In front of more than 7,000 fans on Saturday night, the St. John Fisher College and College at Brockport football teams took the field for Courage Bowl XIV.
In what has quickly become one of the most exciting traditions for both schools, the Courage Bowl raises both awareness and money for Camp Good Days and Special Times, a nonprofit that provides camp experiences to children battling cancer or another childhood illnesses.
Beyond a fundraiser, the game serves as an opportunity for a special group of kids to join the teams as honorary coaches and cheerleaders on the sidelines of both teams. Over the past five years, the Courage Bowl has raised $180,000 for Camp.
The college players and cheerleaders first met their young teammates during the annual Courage Bowl Luncheon, hosted by Brockport on Thursday, Sept. 27.
“We truly see a spark when we watch the interaction between our players and cheerleaders with our honorary guests from Camp Good Days, and for one night, and one game, everyone on that field will win,” said Dr. Gerard J. Rooney, president of the College, during the luncheon.
This year’s coaches were Connor McGee, age 11; Trinity Jefferds, age 13; Gary Burks, 13; and Jacob Quinn, age 10.
McGee is a 6th grader at the Norman Howard School, where he participates in the Drama, Photo, Ski, and Rock Climbing Clubs. At the age of seven, McGee was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and for over the course of several years, underwent surgeries and treatment. Today, he celebrates four years of remission and continues to regain motor skills that he lost during his battle.
Jefferds is a 9th grader at Median High School, and a survivor of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She loves basketball and softball, and riding four-wheelers.
Diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease at birth, Burks is an active 7th grader at the Dr. Charles T. Lunsford School No. 19, despite the ongoing treatment he receives. He loves football and enjoyed the visit from the team at Camp this summer.
Quinn, a resident of Chili, is a sports fanatic who loves having Nurf battles with his brothers and friends. He enjoys playing lacrosse and cheering on his favorite professional football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Two campers, Allivea Maxon-Rife and Koriemae Spirito, also joined as Cardinal cheerleaders on the sideline at the game.
A strong, resilient survivor, Maxon has smiled through numerous treatments, including consults at the Boston Children’s Hospital, after she was diagnosed with a juvenile pilocystic astrocytoma a tumor that affects her optic nerve. A kindergartener at Hilton, she loves Paw Patrol, dancing, and being a member of Team Tiny Charms through Dynamic Elite Athletics Cheer.
Spirito, a freshman at Gates Chili High School, plays third base and shortstop for the Spartans softball team. Active in school musicals, she is a self-taught ukulele, french horn, piano, and trumpet player, and will participate in her first marching band this month. Spirito became a camper while battling leukemia, and looks forward to summers when she can return to Camp as a counselor.
While Fisher was unable to topple nationally-ranked Brockport, with their honorary coaches and cheerleaders by their sides, for Cardinal athletes, the game transcends the scoreboard making it a memorable night for all.
"Due to the tremendous support the Courage Bowl receives from the presidents at St. John Fisher College and the College at Brockport, and from their athletic staff, we are able to provide a wonderful football game that is played by true student athletes," said Gary Mervis, founder of Camp Good Days. "The Courage Bowl is so much more than a game because at the end of the night, the children from Camp Good Days can go home after being an honorary coach or cheerleader with memories that will last a lifetime."