Last year, 39 schools throughout Suffolk County participated in Kicks For Cancer, a grassroots initiative that began 10 years ago and raises funds for numerous organizations and charities dedicated to fighting cancer, through various outlets but mainly with the help of high school girls soccer teams.
The East Hampton varsity and junior varsity girls soccer teams raised $750 of the $56,000 that was raised throughout the county last year, but this year, the Lady Bonackers vowed to not only raise more money but to create a community event that everyone could enjoy. Thus, the “Battle of the Bonackers” soccer game was created and took place on October 16 on the turf at East Hampton High School. The game consisted of nearly 40 staff members from throughout the East Hampton School District pitted against one another, and the varsity and JV players participated either as coaches for each team of teachers, referees on the field, play-by-play announcers, and ticket and concession sellers.
It was a rousing success in more ways than one. Not only did the Lady Bonackers more than double what they raised last year by coming up with close to $1,700, all involved had a great time and the plan is to make the event an annual occurrence.
“I am so proud of their efforts to support such a wonderful cause,” said East Hampton varsity head coach Cara Nelson, who came up with the idea to start the charity game. “It’s always great to see people come together to do good, especially when you can connect the student-body, staff, and community members together for charitable efforts.”
Nick Finazzo teaches math, mostly to eighth-graders, at East Hampton Middle School and was asked by Coach Nelson and a number of soccer players to compete in the game.
“The student officials were also former algebra students and basketball players, which is what may have led to my being yellow carded in the first four minutes of the match, a little payback maybe!” he said. “It was great to see such a large turnout from both the staff members who played, but also from the student body, faculty members, and community members who supported the event that afternoon. Although my side was not victorious it was a great time being out on the pitch again—I haven’t played soccer since seventh grade.”
Paige Cordone, a sophomore defender on the girls varsity team, was a coach for the pink team. She said it was tough being a coach because she felt like everything had to be perfect.
“[We] were yelling a lot and working as a team to win and we had to make speeches and warm ups,” she said. “My team really enjoyed this and had fun with it.”
Asha Hokanson, a sophomore midfielder/forward, was a coach on the white team, along with junior defender Valeria Marin and sophomore midfielder/forward Kayla Carpio. She said being on the sidelines definitely brought a different perspective of the game to her.
“I found myself constantly running up and down the sideline yelling at the teachers to pressure the ball or to run back—hopefully I didn’t come out in a mean way,” she explained. “It was also very hard to not just run onto the field at any given moment to show the players what I meant. I realized that as loud as I tried to be, the players could not hear me, which was very frustrating but at the same time funny to think that when I am playing I regularly don’t hear my coaches either. I came to the conclusion that I would definitely rather be a player than a coach.”
Hokanson added that participating in a game that can affect millions of people through its fundraising efforts was a really powerful thing to be a part of and that she would love to make it an annual event.
“I love the idea of having not just the soccer teams a part of this fundraiser but the fans and the players as well,” she said. “I think that if we do continue this event, more people will show up and we will raise even more money and awareness.”