For basketball coaches, annual Coaches vs. Cancer benefit game a chance to give back
HOWLAND — Athletic competition typically is a test of risk versus reward.
In this case, the risk for the participants might be a pulled muscle, a sore back and perhaps an uncomfortable night of sleep.
But when coaches from Penobscot Valley Conference (PVC) schools gather for their annual Coaches vs. Cancer basketball game, the reward will be much greater — the chance to help a colleague, a player or someone within the community — cope with one of life’s greatest challenges.
As many as 30 coaches from around the region were set to gather in Sereyko Gymnasium at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland on Thursday evening, March 15 for the fifth PVC Coaches vs. Cancer game in four years.
Proceeds will benefit PVHS girls soccer coach Ryan Reed, who recently underwent surgery in Boston after being diagnosed in December with esophageal cancer.
“We just really want to show the support of the community and that the people are behind Ryan and his family and want to fight with him,” said Jeremy Durost, one of Reed’s teammates during their playing days at PVHS and now a coaching colleague at their alma mater.
“He and I spend a lot of time during the fall working together and we’ve been friends since middle school. We grew up playing sports together so not only is he a co-worker in the coaching profession but he’s a good friend that I grew up with.”
Durost has been a primary organizer of “Reed’s Rebound!” which will feature the game complete with full concessions, baked goods, a 50-50 raffle and other raffle opportunities featuring a bevy of items donated by area residents and businesses.
“His family has had it so rough with cancer diagnosis that they have a foundation called the Reed Foundation where they help a lot of local families,” said Durost. “This is a way for us as a coaching community to give back to Ryan and his family for what they’ve done and what he’s meant to this community through his coaching and the positive influence he’s had on so many of his players.”
The PVC Coaches vs. Cancer games began in 2015 as a benefit for LaGrange sixth-grader Zak Mills, the son of current Penquis Valley High School of Milo boys basketball coach and athletic administrator Jason Mills.
Zak Mills required surgery for a form of bone cancer, but this winter completed his freshman season as a guard on his dad’s Penquis varsity basketball team.
“When they first did the Coaches vs. Cancer game, it was so successful that we talked at our PVC basketball meeting that fall about having a game each spring for someone in need, or if there’s not someone in need at the time then we’d find a charity to donate it to,” said Jason Mills.
The PVC Coaches vs. Cancer game has been held each March since then, with an additional game played this in January to benefit Dexter Regional High School football player Matthew Simpson, who is battling sarcoma.
The events typically have taken on a life of their own within each host community — Milo, Guilford, Searsport-Bucksport, Dexter and now Howland.
Community members routinely become active in soliciting raffle items and joining the coaches in volunteering their time on game night to work concessions, take tickets or provide whatever other assistance is needed.
“The outpouring of support from the community right now is unbelievable,” said Durost, who has played in all four of the previous games. “We already had 20-plus items we’re going to raffle off and we have so many people asking what can they do to help.
“In small towns like the ones we have in our area, when someone goes through rough times it seems like everyone really steps up.”
Durost did admit that while active PVC basketball players are encouraged to attend the game, they shouldn’t look at the exhibition as a coaches clinic.
“We always joke to our players to do as we say and not as we do because we have a lot of bad habits since we’re not all in the best of shape out there,” he said. “We’ll be doing plays out on the court that we’ve probably yelled at our players hundreds of times during the season not to do.”
Those unable to attend the game who wish to donate may send checks to Ryan Reed, P.O. Box 445, West Enfield, ME 04493, or they can donate through a PayPal account through firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Unfortunately we’re going to have to do this again next year in another community — I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to do this but it’s a bad thing that someone’s going to be suffering from this terrible disease,” Durost said. “It hits every community just like this year with our community, and as coaches we’re just trying to give back to the communities that support us during our seasons.”