By Rob Potter
HARRIS On Wednesday afternoon, Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC) CEO Fred Kuriger sat at a table in one of the facility’s boardrooms along with 20 local basketball coaches and players.
Kuriger asked how many of them had ever had a family member diagnosed with cancer. Nearly all of the coaches and players raised their hands.
That revelation underscored how prevalent cancer is in our society.
The coaches and players were at CRMC to make a wonderful gesture to help CRMC doctors and nurses continue to care for local cancer patients, presenting a check to the CRMC Oncology Unit in the amount of $3,480.33.
Through admission fees, sales of T-shirts, 50/50 raffles and donations, the money was raised at the fourth annual Sullivan County Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Classic held on Feb. 11 in the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on the SUNY Sullivan campus in Loch Sheldrake.
Spectators also go to see six basketball games, four high school games and two college games. The participating high school teams were the junior varsity and varsity boys’ basketball teams from Liberty and Monticello and the varsity girls’ teams from Eldred, Livingston Manor, Sullivan West and Tri-Valley. The participating college teams were the SUNY Sullivan Lady Generals and SUNY Sullivan Generals, who played the women’s and men’s teams from Manhattan Community College.
Monticello Panthers varsity Coach Chris Russo, who also served as a co-organizer of the event, explained to Kuriger that the event has grown in four years from one game featuring two local high school teams to six games featuring local high school and college teams. He also noted that the event always raises more money than the previous year.
CRMC officials were very happy to accept the donation from the coaches and players.
“In the Oncology Unit, we treat a lot of local cancer patients and donations like this help us purchase equipment so we can continue to help them right here,” Oncology Unit Director Geri Orr said. “Keep up the good work. We look forward to you making this donation every year.”
Orr noted that the Roscoe boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball teams recently sent a $400 to the Oncology Unit. The money was raised at a Coaches vs. Cancer event held in February at Roscoe Central School.
“We all greatly appreciate this donation,” Kuriger said. “Your donation enables us to continue to help cancer patients in this county. Keep it going. You are supporting a great cause.”
Rob Riley, a junior center for the Monticello Panthers varsity team, noted that it was nice to play at SUNY Sullivan with the special player introductions before the tip-off and the general atmosphere. But he also recognized the importance of the event.
“It’s nice that by playing basketball, which is something you love doing, you can help people,” he said. “You feel good knowing that you are part of a event that will help people who are fighting cancer.”
Riley added that he is already looking forward to playing in next year’s Sullivan County Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Two of the other participants in this year’s Coaches vs. Cancer Classic who attended Wednesday’s check presentation ceremony were SUNY Sullivan Coach Chris DePew and SUNY Sullivan Generals freshman guard Dante Agnew.
Agnew had a special reason for participating in both events. On Feb. 1, 2011, his 10-year-old cousin Cierra Boone of Freeport, Long Island passed away from cancer. During the pregame warmups for all SUNY Sullivan Generals games this season, Agnew wore a T-shirt with Cierra’s picture to honor and remember her.
DePew noticed the T-shirt and asked Agnew about it. After learning about Cierra’s story, DePew, who is a co-organizer of the Sullivan County Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Classic, decided that the money raised at this year’s event should be in honor of Cierra.
Fellow co-organizer Chris Russo and the coaches agreed with DePew.
“Dante’s an outstanding kid and when we found out about his cousin Cierra, we wanted to honor her,” DePew commented. “When I spoke to Bobette Boone, who is Dante’s aunt and Cierra’s mother, and told her what we were doing, she was very thankful and expressed her appreciation for what we were doing for her daughter.
“Dante is going to wear his T-shirt next year as well to keep the focus on Cierra,” DePew added.
On the check presented to the Oncology Unit, the line usually used for the signature of the person who wrote the check includes the names of all of the schools which participated in the 2012 Sullivan County Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Classic. On the memo line are the words “In loving memory of Cierra Boone.”
“I am so thankful to my teammates, coaches and everyone at Sullivan that they would make this donation in Cierra’s name,” Agnew said.
The coaches and players who attended Wednesday’s check presentation ceremony included: Coach Chris DePew and Dante Agnew of SUNY Sullivan; Coach Chris Russo, Ros Djonbalaj, Naquan Holman and Rob Riley of Monticello; Coach John Tenbus, Mareena DiMilia and Sabrena Smith of Tri-Valley; Coach Jolene Porter, Emily Bisland, Kayla Kelly and Julia Wilk of Eldred; and Coach Pat Donovan, Marianne Durkin, Carly Grishaber, Stephanie Hauschild, Krysten Herbert, Hayley Puerschner and Sydney Sipple of Sullivan West.