San Jose, Calif. --- Continuing the fight against cancer, the San Jose State Spartans football team joined forces with Wipeout Cancer to host the inaugural Sports Day for Kids at Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
Caroline Lee founded the organization Wipeout Cancer with a group of friends to bring sports to kids who are living with cancer. The Sports Day for Kids was open to children ages 5 to 17-years-old, their siblings and family to participate in a non-competitive team sports environment.
"So fitting how it all pieces together. Wendy, my wife, Caroline have had a vision of this event for two years and to see it come fruition has been fun and exciting," said San Jose State football head coach Ron Caragher.
A cancer survivor herself, Lee was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer two years after competing on the ABC television show Wipeout and winning her episode in 2010. "Wipeout Cancer started because we thought let's give $50,000 back, the amount I won on Wipeout, in five years," Lee said.
Eleven boys and girls got to experience what it is like to be a Spartan player on the field. The kids were able to dive for touchdown catches on to cushion pads, run down the sideline breaking through tackles, work on footwork stepping over bags, the lineman drill of running around two large hopes, catching the ball on the run in the pat and go and concluded with a punt, pass and kick drill.
"They all got to put on a Spartan uniform," Caragher said. Suiting up in the Spartan blue jersey and gold pants, the kids each took team photos with the Spartans and received a commemorative photos at the end of the day's activities.
"Days like this where it is laid back, there is no score being kept, they can come out and run, jump, dive, they can play but all in the safety of a controlled situation," Caragher said. "It's a great step for them on their road to recovery back to full speed. Where excited to be a part of that."
Lyndsey Dworkin, 14-years-old from Mountain View, said she didn't know what to expect before coming to the Sports Day with the Spartans. "I see all these football players and all these footballs, this is so much fun," Dworkin said.
Before being diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a brain tumor that develops in the cerebellum, Dworkin played club level soccer and was one of two girls on her elementary school's flag football team. Speaking with excitement, she said her favorite event of the day was catching passes from Christian Tago and Spartan players on the run in the wide receiver pat and go drill.
Lyndsey's mother Kristine Dworkin come out with her family not only to support her daughter but to support other families too. "To be out here today, the sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, both my kids are running around catching footballs, healthy and doing well." Kristine Dworkin said. "It means the world but I can't forget other families are being affected by this."
Kristine's son Philip Dworkin, who's been diagnosed with Autism, could be seen throughout the day running around enjoying the day hanging out running back Jarrod Lawson.
Accompanied by his 11-year-old brother Zach Norcia, Nick Norcia, 15-years-old from San Jose, was excited to join the Spartans football team while still in recovery after being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
"It's so much fun because you get to hang out with the San Jose State Spartans, which is a local team," Nick Norcia said. "It's so special because you get to see the non-competitive side of them. They are all really nice."
Giving the participants the opportunity to kick field goals from the north end zone goal line, both Zach and Nick were looking to boot the ball through the field goal post uprights. On Zach's final attempt, he positioned himself three steps back and two steps to the left to prepare for his approach. Stepping to ball with his left foot forward, Zach found his sweet spot on the ball and kicked it between the uprights.
"It's really awesome," Zach Norcia said about making the field goal. "It felt good."
Sophomore offensive lineman Nate Velichko valued the change to make an impact in the community with is involvement in the Sports Day. Velichko continued to throw footballs with some of the kids after the event had ended.
"Seeing a smile on their face when they make a catch or a good play. Being able to be out here and have fun with them, really just brightening their day," Velichko said.