June 19, 2013 | Posted by Joe Coughlin, Editor, The Wilmette Beacon
Only a fifth-grader, Reese Dekker has seen the face of cancer, and it smiled brilliantly. Reese has tagged along -and even brought friends -with her mother, Barrie, for a photoshoot with the organization Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to developing uplifting portraits of children fighting life-threatening illnesses, specifically cancer.
Inspired by the experience, Reese got herself in the game. She partnered with fellow fifth-grader Emmett Burnside to spearhead the Highcrest Middle School Kick It For Children's Cancer, a kickball tournament, which debuted Thursday, June 13, at Howard Park in Wilmette.
Reese heard the story about a 10-year-old, cancer-stricken boy who loved kickball and is credited for founding Kick It to use his favorite game to accelerate a cure for the disease.
"I heard about it and I really, really like the idea of playing kickball to raise money for kids’ cancer research," Reese said.
Her pal, Emmett, was more than happy to partner with her, and the fundraising began. Two months of spreading the word, making presentations and gaining sponsorships paid off with four fields of kickball action, 120-plus adolescent participants and more than $9,500 raised.
"It's nice because if a lot of people come we know we're raising a lot of money for kids with cancer," Emmett said. "People that have cancer . . . might not get the best treatment, but this helps them get better treatment. It's nice to know we're helping people."
His partner felt the same way. "We're really excited that everyone is so eager to help as much as we are," Reese said.
On the fields, the kids -energized by a bright sun, lack of school and a day with friends - brought enthusiasm to every kicked ball, as benches erupted and boys and girls cheered each play. But the importance of the day wasn't lost in the fun and sun. Most children were wearing the benefit's t-shirts, which were funded by a donation from Wilmette Pet Shop.
Young philanthropists Emmett and Reese got over their nerves quickly while promoting their project walking into Wilmette businesses with confidence and gaining title sponsors. Those sponsors were all listed on the back of the t-shirt.
While that is a rather common practice for benefits, it meant a little something more to Barrie Dekker, who was amazed by the outpouring of Wilmette support in just two short months.
"On the back of these t-shirts are all the sponsors," Dekker said. "I'm kind of sentimental, but it's like the community has their back."
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