By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Kalamazoo football players clad in pink and teal took to Loy Norrix’s football field Friday for one of southwest Michigan’s most anticipated annual rivalry games – but also, with the help of some notable alumni, to continue to spread the word about cancer awareness.
Kalamazoo Central downed Loy Norrix 41-13 in the Cross-town Crush Cancer game, Central wearing pink jerseys symbolic of breast cancer awareness and Loy Norrix in teal signifying ovarian cancer awareness.
The jerseys were provided in large part by a donation by former Loy Norrix stars Tico and Todd “T.J.” Duckett, who served as "ambassadors" for the evening along with another past Loy Norrix star, Little John Flowers, past Kalamazoo Central football standout Duane Young and past Central baseball standout Kevan Hess. Both Duckett brothers, Flowers and Young starred at Michigan State before spending time in the NFL, Young and T.J. Duckett playing professionally for six seasons each. Hess was drafted by the Tigers out of Western Michigan University in 2009 and played three seasons in Detroit’s minor league system.
The teal jerseys had particular meaning for Tico and T.J. Duckett, as their mother Jackie Barham died after a fight with ovarian cancer.
“We chose a time such as this because of the anticipated large attendance and the potential for the greatest impact amongst our alma mater’s community members,” said the Duckett brothers in a statement leading up to the game. “Our own mother, Jackie Barham, would have celebrated more birthdays, if there was a cure for cancer. This is just one way that we can honor her memory.”
The jerseys featured the teams’ mascot names and also the Kalamazoo cityscape. Junior varsity players from both schools wore T-shirts with their dates of graduation and the cityscape as well as organizers set a theme of the entire community standing together for a common fight against cancer. The event was organized by a Kalamazoo Central parent committee headed by Terri Benton-Ollie together with administrators and other supporters representing both school communities.
Students from both schools were joined on the field at halftime by 50 cancer survivors from the community, and funds raised will be donated to the West Michigan Cancer Center.
“We know that we must ‘tackle’ so many of our societal ills,” Benton-Ollie said. “Tragedy can be a disastrous one-moment incident or a phenomenon that must be reversed or a disease that lurks amongst us. Let’s create a ripple effect of continuous gestures and action that work in favor of the greater good and crush cancer.”
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PHOTOS: (Top) Former NFL player Duane Young speaks to the crowd during halftime of the "Crush Cancer" game. (Middle) Supporters and teams wore pink and blue signifying, respectively, breast and ovarian cancer awareness; the game's ambassadors were (from left) T.J. Duckett, Kevan Hess, Duane Young, Little John Flowers and Tico Duckett. (Photos by Walter Hall.)