By TIM CLEVELAND
When it was learned that 5-year-old Brayden Mitchell was battling stage 3 kidney cancer, the students and staff at Austintown Fitch High School stepped up and put on a staff vs. students basketball game on May 27 at Austintown Middle School to raise money for Mitchell’s treatment.
Mitchell is a fan of superheroes and requested that everyone come dressed in their favorite superhero outfits. Steve Ward’s seventh-period life literature class at Fitch organized the event.
The game was attended by more than 200 people and $1,101 was raised.
“Before the game we had a beautiful singing of the National Anthem by Mia Colon and Terre’ Snead and during halftime we had Northern Whale play a five-song set for the audience,” Ward said. “All in all it was an amazing night. We were able to FaceTime Brayden from his hospital bed and he kept saying ‘Is this all for me?’ We raised a little boy’s hope that night and hopefully in a small way we gave him more courage to continue his fight. We came together as a school and community to show Brayden his story inspires us. He is the superhero.”
Ward said that the idea of doing the game came about through a unique way.
“Maria Rohan, Brayden’s nurse and assistant girls basketball coach, and Alexis Zimmerman, life lit student and basketball player, presented this idea of this young boy in the fight for his life,” Ward said. “The life literature is based around activism and taking the lesson we learn in the classroom and applying them in the community. So we took this on as our final project for the year. We talked about a few different ones but we decided on an entertaining night of basketball between the staff and students. We wanted to help the family, and we wanted to give Brayden hope. We wanted to let him know his story matters, his fight matters and we will behind him.”
The coaches for the game were twelfth-grade teacher Austin Hogan and Fitch girls basketball coach Stacy Cepin. Playing for the teachers were twelfth-grade government teacher Cara Carroll, Keith Edenfield (eleventh-grade, principal), Jarod Galbincea (Falcon Pride Online), Melissa Haug (ninth-grade English), Judy Hopper (twelfth-grade government), Joe McMahon (special education), Lauren Mechling (tenth-grade guidance counselor), TJ Parker (ninth- and tenth-grade physical education), Nate Schuler (ninth- and tenth-grade physical education), Dan Schnurrenberger (eighth-grade history) and Brent Villella (sixth-grade history). The senior students who played were Mike Butcher, Jake Capezzuto, Carlie Chepke, Gabe Chepke, Cassie Custer, Jessie Driver, Quincy Higgins, Erich Jackson, Sarah Melfe, Megan Sefcik and Kerrell Johnson.
After a back-and-forth game, it ended in a 76-76 tie, completing a successful night.
Melfe recently completed her senior season playing basketball for Fitch. She said she enjoyed playing in the game.
“It was an easy decision for me to play in the game because playing basketball is something I love to do and to be able to do it for such an amazing little boy made it that much better,” she said. “[Playing was] tiring, but it was a blast playing against the staff, and having the boys and girls basketball teams combined was really cool. The whole point of the game was to have fun. It didn’t matter who one or lost because we didn’t do it for us, we did it for Brayden.”
“The game was unbelievably entertaining,” Ward said. “It ended in a tie by the help of some super powers on the score board. Both sides played so hard and wanted to win, it was nice to see the tie. The seniors showed why they won championships this year in both boys and girls basketball.”