Over a decade ago, Grand Haven High School decided to host a special football game where players would wear purple jerseys, in an effort to raise money to go to the American Cancer Society.
After that inaugural game, they took a year off and a group including former Buccaneers athletic directors Robin Bye and Jack Provencal, along with Sharon Yonker, Jackie Vandenberg and Marcie Lynch, traveled to Lowell to learn more about the Pink Arrow Pride game from this school.
“That’s when we decided we wanted to keep all of our local money,” said Yonker, who continues to help organize what are now called Bucs Pride games. “We want our children to realize where the money goes.”
The final Bucs Pride football game will take place this Friday night at Buccaneer Stadium, as Grand Haven hosts East Kentwood. Kick-off is at 7:00 p.m., but the festivities begin earlier in the evening.
A Parade of Survivors will take place at 6:15 p.m.
“We want everyone who has lost someone to cancer, or is currently living with cancer, to participate,” Yonker said. “We will have a section just for them to watch the game.”
During the game, players will wear special purple shirts, named after someone who has battled cancer.
“Players can keep their jersey and put whatever name they’d like on the back – someone they know,” Yonker said. “This year there were a few who didn’t want the shirt, so I found sponsors for those. Sometimes the sponsors let the player put a name on it, or sometimes the sponsor wants the jersey and they choose the name.
After the game, players and honorees gather on the field and players have the opportunity to present their game-worn jerseys to those whose names are on the jersey.
Bucs Pride has expanded beyond football, and now most GHHS sports teams host a Bucs Pride party. There are also off-campus fundraisers, including a Bucs Pride night at Mulligan’s Hollow Ski Bowl last winter.
Bucs Pride t-shirts are also sold annually; Yonker will be selling shirts in the Community Room at Buccaneer Stadium from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. today and Thursday.
Money raised at Bucs Pride events helps provide cancer care baskets.
“We added Dune Dollars along with everything else in the basket,” Yonker said. “Everything included is the result of someone telling us we should include it – a book, a blanket, adult coloring books and crayons, a notebook, a flashlight , a bottle of water, a lunch bag.”
Yonker said 50 to 75 care baskets are delivered each year.
She urges anyone who knows someone with cancer to call them at 616-402-1443.
“We can’t do it without people telling us,” she said. “It’s all word of mouth.”
The money also goes to Bluebird Cancer Retreats, a non-profit organization that organizes weekend getaways for those battling cancer.
For more information, search “Bucs Pride” on Facebook.