Football takes a back seat on Friday

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:07 AM

Jeremy wore his grandmother’s name on the back of his jersey as part of Friday’s Bucs Pride football game, which served as a way for the community to honor cancer survivors and to raise money for cancer research.

“It’s awesome,” Jeremy Lattig said as tears streamed down his cheeks. “I love her so much and I’m so glad she’s still here.”

Lee Lattig lives in Leslie, but never misses one of her grandson’s games. Following Friday’s contest, she embraced Jeremy, clutching the purple jersey he wore during the game in her hands.

“This is quite an honor,” she said. “I lost four sisters to cancer last year. This is a very neat experience, and I’m excited that my grandson would honor me like that.”

Fellow Buccaneer Dakota Smith’s jersey simply read “Mom” on the back, in honor of his mother, Jenn Smith, who battled through cancer five years ago.

“It was a reason to keep going, to play harder,” Dakota Smith said.

“I thought it was really cool, really nice to let the players reflect on something more than football,” Jenn Smith added. “You can see a lot of them were very emotional tonight. It’s not always about winning a football game.”

Even those with no direct association to the Buccaneers’ football program were awed by the outpouring of community support on Friday night.

Deanna Johnson, a cancer survivor and a board member for Relay for the Cure, has lost a mother and a grandmother to cancer.

“This just makes me want to cry, just to know that they want to do this,” she said prior to kickoff of Friday’s game. “It’s awesome to see a lot of the younger kids out here wearing purple T-shirts. Back when I was in school, we would never do anything like this.

“We raised over $8,000 just on T-shirt and jersey sales for tonight,” she added.

Following Friday’s contest, it was announced that over $15,000 was raised during the Bucs Pride event.

Much of that money will go toward Bluebird Cancer Retreats, a Spring Lake organization that provides hope for adults with cancer through support groups, workshops and weekend retreats. The American Cancer Society is another major benefactor of the event.

“We just found out about Bluebird through this event,” said Johnson, mentioning that she and her friends who were also cancer survivors were excited to learn about the services Bluebird Cancer Retreats provides.

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