by Melissa Ryan
Touchdown for Tata’s…Who would have thought that a vision by a group of ordinary moms would turn into the most EXTRAORDINARY Cancer awareness event in the Sauk Valley. Five years ago, a group of women who wanted to make a difference in our community and raise awareness and funds for cancer came together and made this vision a reality. Touchdown for Tata’s celebrated it’s fifth year in action on Saturday, October 21st at Sterling High School. Over the last five years, Touchdown for Tata’s has allocated $192,000 to LOCAL community organizations. All the funds are raised by the team captains who run small events, get sponsors, creating a large roster, and by the help of our local community.
On the 21st, eight teams took the field in a Round-Robin tournament to battle in the fight against cancer. The champions of the day, taking home first place on the field with a narrow 1-point victory was Michelle’s Misfits, who are led by Captain Samantha Parks. They defeated the Dixon Dukes, who are led by Captain Ron Helfich.
While Michelle’s Misfits and Dixon took home the trophy for 1st and 2nd place, there is far more to the day. The Pink Warriors Powered by Team Jess, who are led by captains Jared and Khloe Strader, took home the most important award of the day, “MOST FUNDS RAISED” by a single team. Not only did this team individually raise over $12,500, they raised more than any team has ever been able to raise in a single year. The Pink Warriors came in first in the fundraising arena while Team CGH, captain Ashley Nares came in 2nd by raising $11183. Team CGH also have the largest increase in funds raised over last year for the second year in a row.
All captains were honored for their efforts at Roscoe Eades field. The nearly $45,000 that was raised this year will be allocated to local community organizations that support cancer wellness. Funds raised in the past have helped to support Home of Home Cancer Wellness Center, Hospice of the Rock River Valley and the Hospice House, CGH Health Foundation, Team Jess for Education, and KSB Cancer Care Center. In addition to the football game and the fundraiser, Touchdown for Tata’s honors all SURVIVORS throughout the day at the event. The survivors tent, which was sponsored by Jeff Bright RV center offered snacks, door prizes, and most importantly fellowship for our survivors. Over 60 survivors walked the track to be honored for winning their fight against cancer. Doves and Balloons were released during an emotional and moving SURVIVOR CEREMONY. John Paul Schilling and Megan Felker, a survivor herself, along with Brinkley, (pink ears and all), led the walk to the track for the survivors.
To go along with the Survivor Ceremony, there is also an annual Hall of Fame induction. New inductees into the Touchdowns for Ta Ta’s Hall of Fame will be added to the Hall of Fame plaque that hangs at the Factory Pub ‘n’ Grub in Sterling. The plaque reads, “ TOUCHDOWN FOR TATA’S HALL OF FAME, EVENT INSPIRED BY JESSICA STRADER. Dedicated to those who have impacted their community and lost their fight against cancer.” This year’s inductees were Christine Byar, wife of Jon, who worked at Sauk Valley Community College and YMCA and also owned Cane ‘N’ Bean coffee shop at Northland Mall, and Linda Murray, wife of Jeff and an active member in several community organizations. When asked about Jessica Strader, Committee member Melissa Ryan-Bergstrom said, “Jessica Strader was the true inspiration behind this event, she lit up the room of every place that she walked into.” “Jessica’s love for life was contagious. She left an impact on students, friends, family and the entire community. Jess showed people how to fight.” Special thanks to all the captains who help make this event so successful. Tatanya Cook (Newman), Nakia Vandrew (Smashers), Sarah Marie (Rock Falls), Jen Pepper (Fulton), Samantha Parks (Michelle’s Misfits), Ali Sadler (Walmart), Ashely Nares (CGH), and Jared Strader (Pink Warriors Powered by Team Jess), and Ron Helfich (Dixon).
Presenting Sponsors for this years event were, Ken Helfrich Foundation, KSB Hospital CGH Medical Center, The Factory Pub-n-Grub, Wal-Mart Logistics, Jeff Bright RV Center, Midwest Endodontic Specialists and Northern Illinois Youth Tackle Football.