By Judy Reed
The Cedar Springs and Greenville Varsity Soccer teams might be rivals on the field, but they were teammates for a cause Tuesday evening, October 4, as they raised money for medical treatment for Cedar Springs teen Brison Ricker, who suffers from DIPG, an inoperable brain tumor.
At this time last year, Brison was a freshman playing for the Varsity Red Hawks, and was voted offensive player of the year. He was diagnosed in January with the tumor.
“It was an amazing night and I’m so glad Brison was feeling well enough for our family to be there,” said Brison’s mom, Kim Ricker. “It was incredible how many people came out to support Brison, the stands were full of people and love. We are so grateful to everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to be there, and extra grateful for all the people who volunteered and worked hard to make it such a successful night.”
It was the annual youth soccer night, combined with the fundraising event, so it was nicknamed the #Rickerstrong Game. “The high school soccer parents, along with help from the Student Leadership Council and the Athletic Leadership Council, promoted the event to try to bring in a record crowd and student section to cheer on the boys in their game against Greenville High School,” explained parent Barb Dreyer. “We chose this game to have this event because Brison Ricker played soccer with several of the boys from the Greenville team so it meant a lot to them to be able to help raise money for the family also.”
“We sold T-shirts, cotton candy, glow necklaces, balloons and had a huge auction to help raise money for the family,” explained Dreyer. Greenville and Cedar Springs teams had a pop can drive challenge to see who could bring in the most cans. “Although Greenville brought in a ton of cans, Cedar Springs won because this community is just amazing!” remarked Dreyer. “People who didn’t even go to the game dropped off their cans at the high school anyway. We had to bring in a second trailer to collect them all.”
Both communities helped bring in donations and worked together to raise $4748.20 for the Ricker’s accumulating medical bills, which doesn’t include all the cans. “We also collected an astronomical number of cans that we will return soon to add to that total,” said Dreyer. She said she thinks it could be at least another $1,000.
Brison’s medical bills for treatment are around $17,000 per month. Conventional treatments were not working, and his doctor felt there was nothing more they could do, so the Rickers sought out an alternative treatment for Brison, and he has seen improvement on the protocol.
Dreyer said Coach Kyle Avink gave a touching speech after the national anthem on how cancer has affected every person in some way these days, that we all know someone who has battled, is currently fighting or lost their battle with cancer. Then after a moment of silence they had a balloon release in Brison’s honor.
It was evident that Brison enjoyed the night. When the team lined up on the field with each holding a letter spelling out Rickerstrong #one, a big smile spread across his face.
“I have not seen Brison smile so much in a long time!” remarked Kim. “He was so proud of how hard his team played and that they took home a win. He was especially excited for his best friend Derek Egan who took home the rickerstrong boots last night. He left it all on the field and earned them, well deserved!”
Kim said that Brison will have another MRI next week to see how well the treatment is working. She said that they also now have a couple of doctors helping with wound care. The steroids that he was taking tore his skin apart.
“These wounds are still so painful and are the only thing holding him back right now from pushing hard like he so badly wants to, to gain his strength and mobility back,” explained Kim. “Once these are healed we have no doubt he will be out of his wheelchair and walking in no time! He can’t wait to run down a soccer field again!”
If you’d like to help Brison heal and return to the soccer field, there are several opportunities coming up to do so. The next can drive held by Team Brison will be Monday, October 10, at Meijer in Cedar Springs. They are usually in the early evening. See the Team Brison Facebook page for details. Also, next Saturday, October 15, is a big event at Skinner Field from noon to 5 p.m.—a music festival with food, fun and games to help raise funds for Brison. See page 2 for details, or check out the Team Brison facebook page. You can also make a direct donation by visiting Brison’s gofundme page at https://www.gofundme.com/brisonricker.