By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The design was the same, the pattern was one they’d used, and the little girl had received her blanket right around Christmas while undergoing cancer treatments.
Nikki Sorgi has no way of knowing for sure if the blanket – described by an aunt who cares for the child during the school day – is one of more than 400 she, her older sister and Utica Ford classmates have donated to University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital over the last three years. But that doesn’t matter – the fact that a blanket, any blanket, is bringing a child comfort hits home as Sorgi considers what she’s helped to accomplish.
Sorgi is a recipient of an MHSAA/Lake Trust Credit Union “Community Service Award” for helping spearhead a campaign that stretched over the course of her high school career, with the co-leadership of her older sister Alex (a 2015 Ford graduate) and large contributions from her school’s National Honor Society chapter, student council and school store.
“It was really great to see, from the toy drive we started my freshman year, there are other kids out there who care,” Nikki Sorgi said. “A lot of people have this stereotypical view of teenagers, that they’re more concerned about themselves and what’s going on in their lives. It was cool to see other kids out there who care, who want to make a difference, even if they don’t have the ability to start their own project or event.”
Sorgi this fall will follow her sister Alex to Bowling Green State University, beginning studies toward an eventual career as a pediatrician. Providing care for children has been a major drive in her life since her freshman year, when she and Alex collected 250 toys to donate to hospitalized children.
About that time, a medical issue struck closer to home – a friend and classmate was diagnosed with cancer. Realizing that a toy drive was great for younger kids but not as much of a help for older ones, the Sorgi sisters turned their focus to creating homemade tie-knot fleece blankets that could comfort patients of all ages.
Sadly, the friend who inspired the drive, Stefan Oncia, died after his battle in December 2014. A month later, the first donation of 60 blankets went to Kids Kicking Cancer in Southfield. The following Christmas season, more than 150 blankets were donated to patients at C.S. Mott. This past Christmas, the Sorgis delivered nearly 200 more blankets.
Along the way, Ford’s NHS helped raise funds for materials, and more than 60 students helped assemble them during an after-school blanket-making party. The Bemis Junior High life skills class also has contributed blankets the last two years, and Nikki worked with her travel softball coach to make their holiday gift exchange instead a donation of blankets.
The girls’ mother Roni has had a number of big assists along the way, and that likely will continue with Nikki finishing up high school (she’ll also join her sister playing softball at BGSU). Nikki, a four-year varsity softball and basketball player, said she’s talked to her coach Matt Joseph (who coaches both teams) about ways to continue the blanket drive in the future. Her brother Joey will be a sophomore next year and is expected to pick up the cause, with the sisters returning home at Thanksgiving to help orchestrate the drive with the help of Ford sports teams or NHS if it remains involved.
Nikki will use the award as a scholarship toward paying for her education. Her desire to become a doctor started before she started playing such a large role in bringing patients comfort – but seeing how the blankets have impacted children at the hospital has swayed her toward pediatrics while also teaching her a few lessons in persistence and communication.
“It shows the blanket drive might be one small thing, but it shows how much one small thing can do for people who are sick, or struggling, whatever the case may be,” Sorgi said. “Even though it’s just a small gesture.”
The Community Service Awards are sponsored by the Michigan High School Athletic Association and Lake Trust Credit Union to recognize student-athletes' efforts to improve the lives of others in their communities. In addition to the $1,000 award, the Lake Trust Foundation is awarding an additional $500 to each honoree, to be donated to a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization of the awardee’s choice.
PHOTOS: (Top) Utica Ford senior Nikki Sorgi sits in front of a mountain of homemade blankets headed for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. (Middle) Sorgi, with older sister Alex (right) and Kevin Smith from Mott community relations, delivers the blankets to the hospital. (Photos courtesy of the Sorgi family.)
2017 Community Service Awards
The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association began examining several topics during its Fall Meeting, Dec. 1 in East Lansing – including start and end dates of the winter calendar, possible new transfer rule exceptions and emerging sports – that will shape its work during the winter and spring meetings of this 2023-24 school year.
Generally, the Council takes only a few actions during its Fall Meeting, with topics often introduced for additional consideration and action during its meetings in March and May. The Council did take three actions this time as part of larger conversations expected to continue over the next six months.
The Council joined staff discussion on the start and end dates of winter seasons and the possibility of moving up both, which was among topics surveyed as part of the Update Meeting poll completed by administrators during the MHSAA’s annual presentations across the state this fall. Staff will prepare a recommendation for Council to review at a future meeting regarding the 2025-26 school year and beyond.
MHSAA staff also provided a variety of transfer rule issues encountered over the last year, and Council discussed the possibility of adding transfer rule exceptions related to military transfer families, fulltime school employee transfers and students returning from a sports academy or prep school and seeking immediate eligibility. The Council did adopt a change for multi-high school districts (with at least three high schools) that include both boundary and non-boundary schools that more clearly defined where students at those schools have immediate eligibility.
The Council also discussed possible new and emerging sports, including proposals for MHSAA sponsorship received by the water polo and field hockey governing bodies and an anticipated proposal to add boys volleyball to the MHSAA Tournament lineup.
Several more conversations regarded MHSAA postseasons:
- The Council reviewed the work of the Football Task Force and considered a staff recommendation to have the Football Committee in January discuss possibly capping enrollment of Division 8 11-player schools at 250 students to incentivize schools within that group to play 11-player instead of switching to 8-player.
- MHSAA staff have identified four areas requiring financial increases – MHSAA Tournament officials fees, host schools compensations, manager honorariums and team reimbursements for Finals participants – and the Council discussed the importance of including these when the MHSAA Audit & Finance Committee meets in February to begin the 2024-25 budgetary process.
- The Council also discussed recommendations from the MHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee addressing possible requirements of emergency action plans and AEDs at MHSAA Tournament sites.
The Fall Meeting saw the appointment of Wyoming Godfrey-Lee Schools superintendent Arnetta Thompson and Freeland Middle School principal Jennifer Thunberg to two-year terms to the 19-person Council, the first terms for both. The Council also reelected Scott Grimes, superintendent for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, as its president; Brighton High School athletic director John Thompson as its vice president, and Vic Michaels, director of physical education and athletics for the Archdiocese of Detroit, as secretary-treasurer.
The Representative Council is the legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.