When life hits hard and it takes a toll, it can be refreshing to see people come together for a good cause to help someone in need.
On Saturday, Nov. 19 several men hit the basketball court for an alumni game to raise funds for Sean Looney.
Sean, a 2006 graduate of Craig County High School, was diagnosed with cancer.
“I was completely shocked when I was first diagnosed. You don’t think you’ll hear the word cancer when you are only 34 years old,” he said. “The type of cancer I have is very aggressive and spreads quickly. By the time I went to see my doctor, it had spread to my liver, lungs and several lymph nodes. I had to undergo a surgery to remove the initial tumor and then extensive chemotherapy.”
“Once we heard that Sean had been diagnosed with cancer, we knew that we wanted to do something to help raise money,” shared Kim Wolfe, an employee of Craig County Public Schools. “Both of his parents, John and Cathy Looney, retired from Craig County Public Schools and his brother, Will, is also a Craig County High School alumni.”
She added, “We have worked with John and Cathy for several years and we are a pretty tight knit work family.”
Wolfe and Sierra Frazier came up with the idea of hosting an alumni basketball game and several others helped to organize the successful night.
“We knew that Sean was a Craig County High School alumni basketball player and his dad, John, was a coach for the boys basketball team for several years so what better way to raise money than to have an alumni basketball game!” Wolfe said.
“When we found out about the fundraiser, we felt loved, special and appreciative!” Sean Looney said. “Even though we don’t live there anymore, I felt like part of the community because everyone was so supportive.”
Flyers were made and a post on Facebook went out, asking if any alumni players were interested in playing.
The game was originally planned for Oct. 1, and had 26 players signed up, but had to reschedule for Nov. 19, due to the threat of Hurricane Ian, only 19 were still able to play.
They were: Trent Lipes, Randall Foster, Matt Faw, Derek Persinger, Brandon Fisher, Nathan Fisher, Dylan Crawford, Justin Michael Crawford, Jakob Jones, James Hodges, Andy McCarty, Garrett Paitsel, Wyatt McPherson, Dalton McPherson, Josh Menezes, Kevin Swingle, Ryan Frazier and Jonathan Slusher.
“Though Ryan and Jonathan were not alumni, but we were raising money for a great cause so why not let them play!?” Wolfe said.
Looney said that when he watched the live video, he graduated with Matt Faw and recognized a lot of the other guys playing as well.
Taylor Sloss and James Swingle were the officials for the night.
“Taylor originally signed up to play but once she realized that she was going to be the only lady playing, she offered to officiate instead,” Wolfe noted. “Also, we had to pull James out of the crowd to officiate, but he was more than willing to jump in and help.”
Carrie Hutton emceed the event, Sheri Sloss kept the book, Amanda and Makenzie Lucas helped set up and worked the bake sale table and Ryan Frazier made sure that the players had some practice jerseys to wear.
They had several CCPS staff members to donate baked goods and drinks for them to set up a bake sale during the game.
There were enough players to have four extras on each team to give each other a break in playing, as Sloss announced during the game that the “oxygen was located at the end of the court,” as some players were a bit “winded” in playing.
It was a fun time for all as Sloss even played some great music to stimulate the atmosphere.
At halftime, they had a contest where whomever could hit a half court basket would receive half of the winnings. It was $1 per try for the halftime contest.
Several guys and a couple girls gave their efforts. Many hit the rim and “oooooos” were heard from the spectators in the bleachers.
James Hodges and Luke Potter were the only two shooters to make the half-court shot.
“Since it was a tie, they had to do a shoot out and see who could make a basket from the free throw line, 3-point line and once again from half court in the fastest time under one minute,” Wolfe shared. “Neither of them made the half-court shot again in the shootout but Luke had the fastest time at the free throw and 3-point line, so he walked away the winner.”
The game then continued as the players on both teams went for it all, making great shots, layups and passes.
The end score was White team – 49 and Blue team – 46.
Though it was a contest, the score was close the entire game.
The players of both teams would joke around a bit, pushing each other and talking “stuff.”
Also, it seemed the spectators were cheering for everyone. It made for a very enjoyable and meaningful evening.
Sean’s dad, John shared, “We are glad to live in Craig. There are so many people praying and helping us out. I’m not surprised though; Craig is so close knit.”
Also, Matt Faw donated an authentic Virginia Tech replica football helmet that is autographed by former Hokie player, Michael Vick. An online auction for it will be set up soon and the proceeds will be donated to Sean as well.
About $1,600 was raised Saturday night from the $5 admission to the game, bake sale and donations.
“We really need a lot of prayers!” Sean added. “Even though I am on a break from treatment, it’s still on our minds every day. I am dealing with some late side effects of the chemotherapy, so prayers for those to subside.”
“It was amazing to be a part of something like this and to see the community come out and support a great cause,” Wolfe shared.
Frazier’s quote on her email by Albert Einstein seemed appropriate for this game, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
One of the latest updates which Sean and his wife Libby posted on Facebook included, “His oncologist took his case to the tumor board and they all agreed he has responded really well to treatment. There are a few enlarged lymph nodes they made a plan for.”
“I am now on a short break around the holidays before I have more scans and blood work to see what else needs done. I am so grateful for the break in treatment and more time to spend with my family.
The doctors plan to rescan and do bloodwork after the new year, which will determine the need for surgery.
We want to say thank you to everyone who came out to the game to support us!” Sean shared. “Thank you for the donations, the prayers, and loving our family. It feels good coming from a small community, I can feel the love!”
“We are so thankful for this break!” Libby shared. “It will last through the holidays and has already given us precious family time as Sean is finally starting to feel better. We are eating meals at the table as a family again, and that might be the best part for me!”
She continued, “I am praying for a miracle, and I believe at the next scans they will say, “What enlarged lymph nodes? What cancer? It’s gone and you are in remission!””
The family invites the community to “Please join us in praying.”