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Purple games raise $125,000 for local cancer research

Tri County High School soccer one of the teams that raised funds

The Van Andel Institute’s Community for a Cure Purple Games initiative is finishing the 2009-2010 school year with a flurry of activities, celebrating some important milestones, and raising awareness and thousands of dollars for local cancer research at Van Andel Research Institute (VARI).

More than a dozen Community for a Cure Purple Games featuring nearly two dozen participating schools and communities have been held throughout the school year in sports as diverse as swimming, basketball and hockey, and in communities spanning from Grand Rapids to Zeeland, and from Muskegon to Hudsonville to Holland.

Last week’s baseball and softball games at South Christian High School, track meet at Forest Hills Central Middle School, and women’s soccer game at Tri County High School held in honor of long-time Tri County coach and soccer advocate Pam Smigiel raised more than $10,000. Barely a year since a Grandville High School Women’s soccer game launched the initiative, VAI Community for a Cure Purple Games are on pace to raise more than $125,0000 for cancer research.

“Grandville’s example of commitment, unity and support has spread like wildfire throughout the high schools, colleges, and universities of West Michigan, said Van Andel Institute Chairman & CEO David Van Andel. “A small idea has gathered strong community support and grown into something grand that holds a promise of hope for many.”

“This is yet another indication of the caring and commitment that sets West Michigan apart from other communities,” added Van Andel.

The color purple symbolizes cancer survivors. Purple games bring schools and communities together to raise awareness, celebrate survivors, honor loved ones who have passed away, and to support cancer research at VARI. Each event takes on the unique flavor of the host school and community.

In October Hope College football players wore the name of a loved one affected by cancer on the back of their uniforms on the way to raising $12,500; in December, the Zeeland High School Men’s Swimming & Diving turned the pool into “a sea of purple” on its way to raising more than $20,000 in a purple-themed “Kick Cancer, One Stroke at a Time” meet; and in January, elementary school students in Muskegon’s Reeths-Puffer School District supported their High School basketball and wrestling teams by collecting nearly $5,000 worth of change in a district-wide effort that raised more than $13,000.

“We have had a lot of people affected by cancer in our baseball and softball community, and this was a great opportunity for us to give back to such a great cause,” said South Christian High School Varsity Baseball Coach John Boersma. “ I was amazed at the tremendous support and generosity of people that showed up for the game! Our team felt a sense of pride that they were doing something bigger than baseball on May 4th, and that is what it is all about!”

“As soon as the game was suggested, I knew our team, school, and community would be supportive, and give 100% effort, and they have,” said Caledonia High School Women’s Varsity Soccer Coach Steve Sanxter. “To have the research done right here in West Michigan makes the event even more special.”

To get involved, contact Community for a Cure Coordinator Sara Hop at: 616-234-5598 or sara.hop@vai.org .

For more information and a complete list of participating Community for a Cure schools and communities, visit: http://www.vai.org/Help/Community-for-a-Cure.aspx. Also,  find Community for a Cure on Facebook.

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