HERMITAGE — It was the seventh time soccer players from the Hickory High School girls soccer team got together with their competitors to “kick out” cancer.

The event was started in 2012 by former Hickory student M.K. Bair, whose mother was battling cancer at the time. Though Bair has since graduated, the Cataloni family took over organizing the Kick Out Cancer event, said Christine Cataloni, who has had two daughters play for the girls soccer team.

“The team is doing something to help the community, so there’s always been a very positive response,” Christine said.

To help raise awareness and money for the American Cancer Society, the team holds a bake sale and has a Chinese auction of various baskets with contents ranging from lottery tickets to hair care products to gift cards. Usually it’s parents of soccer players who make the donations, but members of the community sometimes donate items as well, Christine said.

The soccer players are involved as well, from helping bake with the bake sale to making posters and advertising for the event. While in school, the players also encourage their classmates and teachers to attend, Christine’s daughter and senior Giona Cataloni said.

“The players love the event and really believe in helping others — especially because so many people are affected by cancer,” Giona said.

Normally the event would be held during a home game in October, but due to this year’s schedule the Kick Out Cancer event was held on Sept. 29. Competing against Hickory High School was Mercer Area Middle / High School, though Christine said players and coaches from both teams participated in the event.

“They were so happy that we wanted to include them that they gave a $200 donation from their boosters,” Christine said.

Before the game started, soccer players, coaches, and anyone present who has been affected by cancer gathered in a large circle in the center of the playing field where teacher Patti Rodenbaugh from the Delahunty Middle School spoke about the importance of the event. When she finished, the people in the circle released balloons of different colors, representing different kinds of cancer.

“As our T-shirts for Kick Out Cancer said a couple of years ago, ‘We are always winners when helping others.’ I think everyone felt like a winner at our 2018 Kick Out Cancer event!,” Giona said.

This year, Kick Out Cancer managed to raise almost $1,500. Since one of the players has a family member who is dealing with cancer, Christine said the money will be split between being donated to the American Cancer Society and the family member.

“It really motivated us to get as many people to attend so that we could raise awareness and money to donate,” Giona said.

Like David L. Dye on Facebook or email him at ddye@sharonherald.com.

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