ATHENS — A community effort to help two young Athens students who are battling cancer culminated with a check presentation at Alumni Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
The Athens and Canton school districts worked together over the last few months to raise money for Seeley Carlin and Ariah Cooke. The main event was the Gold Out Game between the schools’ football teams on Sept. 20.
The football game, which was held during Athens’ Homecoming weekend, drew thousands of fans — and all of the money went to the cause.
Athens Superintendent Craig Stage announced on Wednesday that with a penny war between the schools, individual and corporate donations, admission from the Gold Out Game, t-shirts, decals and raffles, the families of Seeley and Ariah will split $22,850.58.
“It’s remarkable. I think the important thing to know is that this community, the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, when there’s a cause, they come together,” said Stage. “They are family. It doesn’t matter if they are by blood or not, they come together to support those in need. The two families and the two students of ours who are going to be recipients of this good will, couldn’t be more deserving.”
While Canton and Athens were the schools competing in the Gold Out Game, football teams from across the Northern Tier League wore helmet decals to support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The total amount raised from the helmet decals alone was over $1,100.
The penny war between the schools raised a large amount of money for the cause. The Bradford County Dairy Princess and Promotion Service will provide ice cream to both school districts for their work with the penny war, according to Bradford County Dairy Princess McKenzie Slater who was on hand Wednesday.
Stage was quick to praise the people who were running things behind the scenes.
“I’d like to thank Tracy Weldy, who took it upon herself to kind of spearhead this, along with Blaire Wayman, the chairperson of our PR committee. They worked well together,” said Stage, who also thanked Michelle Ward, mother of Canton student-athlete and cancer survivor Timmy Ward. “There was a ton of coordination and behind the scenes efforts to make sure this went off as successfully as possible. I could not tell you how many positive comments we got about the whole event.”
The superintendent also thanked the students at Athens for using their Homecoming week to help Seeley and Ariah.
“I have to thanks the Athens student body for making their homecoming week all about Childhood Cancer Awareness and the Gold Out Game. The students that we are educating are pretty caring individuals, and it’s pretty remarkable that they were willing to do that,” Stage said.
Athens football coach Jack Young was amazed by the Gold Out Game and the support of the community.
“It was unbelievable. It was just such an incredible atmosphere. I can’t help but reiterate how strong our communities are and the incredible things that occur here,” said Young.
On hand for Wednesday’s check presentation were Ward and Athens High student Cora Weldy, who has also battled cancer.
Young pointed to the two warriors as role models in the community and as two young adults who will thrive in the future.
“The incredible piece to me is not only maybe some lessons learned from these high school kids who are involved, but you take two individuals like that in Cora and Tim, and there is no doubt in my mind that they are going to be successful people in life and there’s no doubt in my mind that they will continue to pay it forward,” Young said.