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EL tournament embodies caring

By TONY CARDWELL
Guest Columnist

Standing at midfield, recent cancer survivor Mike Cadenhead and last year’s Andy Kosmala Memorial Tournament sponsor, rounds out his speech with the phrase “we care.”
Mike really hit the nail on the head with that one. If there was one phrase to come out of the entirety of the tournament, it’s “we care.”
Entering its seventh year, the Andy Kosmala Memorial Tournament has begun to represent so much more than cancer research and donations. It has started to signify the closeness of the community and the relationships that follow us all. The tournament gives us hope, pride, faith, love, and most of all, inspiration. Not just for those of the sponsors, but for all of the attendees of  the tournament. There was a certain buzz around the stadium Saturday that you just don’t get from your everyday soccer match.
In the beginning, the Andy Kosmala Memorial Tournament gave all proceeds to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, but even that amount of charity wasn’t enough for coach Jason Dragoon. Dragoon remembered the closeness the Kosmala’s showed during their son’s fight with cancer and longed to bring that to the community. Starting in 2011, the Andy Kosmala Memorial Tournament began to sponsor members of the community, starting with two resident East Lincoln High students, Gabby Villarreal and Miranda Eckard. The following year, the tournament sponsored community leader and father of two East Lincoln alumnus, Mike Cadenhead. Both Mike and Gabby have successful defeated their respective forms of cancer, while Miranda is still fighting her rare form of cancer.
However, this year the Andy Kosmala Memorial Tournament sponsored two members of the community, Laura Bodenheimer and Beth Mason, both of whom have graduated from East Lincoln, with Bodenheimer hailing from the class of 2005 and Mason from the class of 1974. Bodenheimer, who graduated nearly 10 years ago, was, in her words, “completely overwhelmed.”
“When I got the phone call, I was so overwhelmed. I really was genuinely shocked that a community I left is still affected and is now rallying around my fight. This is still so remarkable and this tournament is so inspiring,” Bodenheimer told me a few moments before taking the field for a inter-game presentation highlighting the tournament and the past sponsors.
The presentation featured all past sponsors as well as the two current sponsors of the tournament, save Miranda Eckard, who was vacationing in Greece with her family though her and her family sent their best wishes and praise for what the tournament has done. Both Gabby Villarreal and Mike Cadenhead delivered speeches praising the tournament as well, while Dragoon delivered his own speech thanking and commemorating the community for rallying around the current and past sponsors of the tournament.
Bodenheimer gave a similar speech to those in attendance as well, showing her gratitude and appreciation to the East Lincoln crowd for their continued support in the fight against cancer. Accompanying the four speeches and this year’s sponsors was the men of the East Lincoln Fire Department, who, decked out in their dress blues, were brought out to represent Beth Mason, whose son currently works on the force. Mason, who is currently battling liver cancer, is the mother of four children, all of whom have graduated from East Lincoln as well.
All proceeds from the tournament go to the two sponsors. Gate, T-shirt sales, concessions, raffle sales and donations –– the entire pot –– is split evenly between the two families to support their loved ones’ fight against cancer.
This year’s tournament has been a landmark year for the event as well. Though I’m not sure if the monetary value rivaled that of years past, there seemed to be more faces in the crowd compared to previous installments of Andy Kosmala Memorial Tournament, and that is a value that cannot be measured.
In this instance, Mike Cadenhead’s small adage rings true.
This community cares. We care.

Tony Cardwell is a senior at East Lincoln High, inspires to be a journalist and played soccer for the Mustangs.

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