Forced out as the head football coach at Eagle Point High in January, Jacob Schauffler wasn't sure what direction he would go in the early aftermath...
First there was inspiration, followed by a little perspiration and, finally last Thursday, a definite celebration for a handful of Crater softball seniors determined to do some good for their community.
Spearheaded by the efforts of Kenzie Rohde and Haley Fox, along with Renee and Kassi Murphy and Rachel Ray, the Comets were able to stage a benefit softball game against South Medford last week that helped raise funds and awareness for the Faith Fulmer Foundation.
Faith Fulmer had served as the high school's Sparrow Club honoree until succumbing to cancer last September at age 8. The Faith Fulmer Foundation was established by her parents Louis and JoLayne Fulmer in hopes of raising funds specifically for children's cancer research. For more information, visit faithfulmerfoundation.org.
"I never really knew her personally but her story affected our whole school so much, like I've never seen our school be affected so much by one person," said Rohde, 18. "I think it might have just been her personality that everyone responded to because even though she had cancer, you wouldn't tell it by the way she approached things."
It was Rohde's initial plan to hold a fundraiser for their Sparrow and that idea ultimately blossomed into the fivesome's senior project, with the ultimate goal aimed at bringing awareness to the foundation's cause.
To pull it off, however, took quite a bit of doing for the group, who didn't get full approval for their project until the beginning of May.
"It was tense because we had to keep running around and getting signatures from our athletic director and principal and there were certain things we couldn't do and it all was a little crazy," said Fox, 18.
Rohde began the process by contacting JoLayne Fulmer to make sure their idea was OK, then the group had to write up a project proposal that had to get the proper approval from school administrators and teachers.
The group knew all along they wanted to have the South Medford softball team involved in a benefit game since the teams became friendly when they joined together last summer for a joint ASA softball venture. They then had to find a date on the schedule that would work for the nonleague affair, then make all the proper arrangements with the Oregon School Activities Association to pull off all their plans — which included special yellow-dominant uniforms in Faith's honor.
"We actually got a letter (from the OSAA) that we might not be able to wear yellow because that's not one of our school colors on the Monday before the Thursday game," said Fox, who plans to study sports medicine next fall at Oregon State. "We'd already gotten the T-shirts and everything so that was pretty tense while we tried to contact them and work everything out."
In fact, the group didn't learn that all could go according to plan until being informed by Crater athletic director Jeff Johnson of that fact on the day of the game.
"It was definitely stressful but it ended up working out," said Rohde, who plans to attend Southern Oregon University in the fall and study pre-pharmacy. "We didn't really have a Plan B, we were just hoping this one would go through and we lucked out."
All of the softball team members also worked tirelessly to make sure their home field looked its best for the big game, painting bleachers and dugouts and pulling weeds along the grass line.
"We had this place decked out," said Crater softball coach Chris Arnold.
Donations were taken during the game, with 100 percent of the profits from the concessions sold also going to the cause.
"Our goal was $200 and I wasn't sure if we were ever going to meet that because I wasn't sure how many people would come out to the game," said Rohde. "At the beginning of the game I was kinda nervous but afterwards one of my friends said they counted about 100 people who showed up eventually so that was really cool."
The final total raised, which was to be submitted Wednesday along with all Crater's senior projects, was $362, according to Rohde.
"They had some really generous donations at the game," added Arnold, whose team — for the record — won the game 6-4.
REWARDS FOR A FIRST-EVER championship run by the South Medford girls basketball team keep coming in, with the latest honor a selection to play in a national tournament Dec. 26-29 in Washington, D.C.
The Panthers, who went a large-school record 30-0 this past season, have been selected as the West Coast representative to the National Title IX Holiday Invitational Conference and Classic (NTHICC).
"It's a pretty cool deal and we're excited to be a part of it," said South Medford head coach Tom Cole, "and they seem pretty excited to have us be a part of it. They even had something up on their website (sankofaproject.org) before we agreed to come that they were hoping the South Medford Panthers will accept their offer to be invited to participate."
As the website states, the National Title IX Holiday Invitational Conference and Classic (NTHICC) is designed to address the slippage in Title IX compliance by informing players, parents, coaches, athletic directors and administrators about the educational, physical and emotional benefits associated with participation in school-based team sports and the rights and protections provided by Title IX.
During this winter break, some of the top nationally ranked female high school basketball programs will be joining D.C.-area scholar athletes with GPAs of 3.0 or better to listen to keynote speakers on the topic of Title IX.
The basketball players will also test their skills against some of the best, including McEachern from Powder Springs, Ga., which finished this last season ranked No. 3 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25. Other top 25 teams slated to join No. 15 South Medford and McEachern are No. 5 Riverdale Baptist of Maryland, No. 10 Cicero-North Syracuse of New York, No. 12 Hoover High of Alabama and No. 24 Our Lady of Good Counsel of Maryland.
Area teams Forest Park of Virginia, Aberdeen and Riverdale Baptist of Maryland, Providence Day of North Carolina and Wilson of Washington, D.C., are also slated to participate.