When a member of their close community of athletes, families and fans was hit hard by cancer, they decided to do something about it - and they did, in a big way.
The Grand Rapids Wrestling team, cheerleaders and booster club raised $6,792 for the Itasca Area Cancer Crisis Fund (IACCF). The money came from selling T-shirts with the motto, “Take down cancer.” But that’s not all.
The annual Skip Nalan Memorial Wrestling Invite is one of the biggest regional wrestling events of the year and hosted by the Grand Rapids Wrestling Team typically drawing teams from all over the state. This year, the 61st annual Skip Nalan Tournament was held Saturday, Jan. 26. Despite freezing cold temperatures, 10 teams participated and hundreds of spectators came to watch.
Knowing so many people would be attending the event and in preparation, Grand Rapids varsity wrestlers and cheerleaders began selling the “Take down cancer,” T-shirts and planning other fundraisers for that day as well.
Faith Keenan, longtime booster club member, said they organized a raffle and sold tickets with various items donated by local businesses. They also offered 50/50 split the pot throughout the day and sold more T-shirts.
“And with all of that, we came up with $6,792,” said Keenan. “I had to count it several times because I could hardly believe it!”
Keenan has also been involved with the IACCF since its beginning when a summer event called The Bash first established the fund.
The first Bash was held in 2010 to rally support for beloved teacher and coach Jackie Bischoff of Grand Rapids. Sadly, Bischoff lost her fight with cancer but the event continued to be held annually for eight more years.
Proceeds from those summer events and through other fundraising efforts have raised thousands of dollars for IACCF. The money in the fund goes to local families affected by cancer in the form of grants to help pay for a variety of things such as transportation to medical appointments and lodging for families while their loved ones are treated at hospitals far away.
“Since it began, we’ve been so fortunate that so many groups have held events to raise money that we can continue to give grants,” explained Keenan.
The Grand Rapids Wrestling Association decided to be yet another team behind IACCF when one of their “own,” in this wrestling community that has been together for many years was affected by cancer.
“I’m super proud of our varsity cheerleaders and wrestlers and I can’t thank the sponsors and businesses enough - we couldn’t have done it without them,” said Keenan. “I’m thankful to everyone who made it possible.”
Not only were they able to take down nearly $7,000 for IACCF, Grand Rapids won this year’s Nalan Invite with a team score of 205.5.