Lakeview, Poland rallying around Rygalski


Fundraiser set for

Lakeview player

at Poland High

By Dan Hiner

dhiner@vindy.com

High school athletics can bring a community together, and on rare occasions that support can carry over into neighboring communities.

Lakeview girls basketball player Lexi Rygalski was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a treatable form of cancer, a couple days after Christmas.

Lakeview and Poland high schools are teaming up for a fund-raiser during today’s boys basketball game to support the Rygalski family.

“I got with two guys who work on our basketball booster club and I got the idea that we make the 50/50 proceeds, pass out pregame shirts — both teams are going to wear pregame shirts — and try to get a nice collection for this young lady who’s a senior at Lakeview and her family to help with these medical expenses and medical bills,” Poland athletic director Brian Banfield said.

Lakeview will bring “Alexis Strong” wristbands which will be sold at the Poland Fieldhouse lobby starting at 4:30 p.m. The pregame shirts will be worn by both teams and the officials prior to the opening tip. Banfield said donations can be made during the game.

Rygalski woke up on Christmas with slight chest pain and the discomfort eventually led to her losing feeling in her left arm and back pain during practice.

After getting X-rays, the doctors discovered a tumor above her lungs and she was kept in the hospital for three days.

Rygalski has already gone through two surgeries since her diagnosis, and is one round into a four-month chemotherapy treatment.

Lakeview head coach Jason Senedak said other schools and coaches have reached out in support of Rygalski in recent weeks.

“Most everywhere we’ve gone recently, the opposing team or coaches have sent well wishes or just a little something to Lexi just to let them know that the ‘basketball family’ of Mahoning and Trumbull counties is behind her,” Senedak said.

Rygalski said it’s been difficult watching her teammates practice because her senior year was supposed to be her “best year.” But she returned to practice on Monday and is monitoring her physical abilities.

“They told me Hogkin’s lymphoma is extremely curable, I’d be in outpatient and I’d pretty much be able to continue with school and sports as long as my body allowed it,” Rygalski said.

Even after breaking the news to her teammates and coaches, Rygalski has taken a positive approach and is looking on the bright side.

“I know one thing about being an athlete — when I was in the hospital on the first night, the first oncologist said that I look very well and usually people that look this well can beat it pretty quickly and easily,” she said. “I feel that being an athlete and having the lifestyle I have made it the best of a worst situation.”

Lakeview athletic director Ron DeJulio said school will conduct another fundraiser during its boys basketball Senior Night against Struthers on Feb. 9.

Basketball has a special meaning for Rygalski, and for her, events like tonight are a perfect example of how sports can make a positive impact.

“Even though we’re rivals or opponents, we’re still a family through basketball,” Rygalski said. “That’s kind of how I’ve seen it. It’s just crazy how much support the sport has given me. I feel like it would be different if I didn’t play basketball.

“It’s crazy to me how the sport can bring everybody together like this.”

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