Outside the Lines: Building sports memories through life

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Community members and students packed the Oak Mountain High School gymnasium Friday night with two things in common. One, they wanted their team to hit the game-winning shot. Two, each of them knew someone with cancer and wanted to do something about.

Both Spain Park and Oak Mountain aspire to be playing for a state title on March 2 in the 19,000 seat arena at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center, but both also desire to win a championship over the disease that saw 1,399,790 new cases across the nation in 2006.

Last Tuesday, both schools&8217; students teamed up with the Birmingham chapter of the American Cancer Society to host separate &8220;Hoops for Hope&8221; events during their first area game of the season.

The Jaguars&8217; student government association raised nearly $1,000 to divide between the ACS and a scholarship fund for the children of former computer sciences teacher Troy Smith, who passed away in August after a four-year battle with breast cancer.

Similarly, the Eagles teamed up with Vestavia Hills High School for the third consecutive year, raising nearly $5,000 for ACS.

&8220;The school has kind of embraced the idea of that type of fundraising,&8221; said colon cancer survivor and OMHS head coach Jerry North. &8220;It&8217;s become a tradition and means a lot to me with my situation with cancer. It&8217;s a way of fighting back.&8221;

Oak Mountain players started the event in honor of North and then basketball player John Hicks who were both battling cancer in January 2005. They chose to begin the tradition for their first area home game that year with Vestavia after the Rebels&8217; legendary baseball coach Sammy Dunn passed away from cancer the previous summer.

In addition to these two local teams, a new team to the Shelby County community hopes to bring their hard-hitting punch to the fight this Friday and Saturday night.

The Frozen Tide hockey team (see page 4B) will honor inaugural team member and graduate assistant coach Brent Ullom Friday as part of their homecoming festivities at the Pelham Civic Complex.

Ullom has a rare case of cancer, which began in his foot last year. He took the ice for the inaugural &8217;Bama Hockey team last February against Vanderbilt University for his only collegiate hockey game. Since then, he has taken up the role of coach, friend and motivator.

&8220;Brent is one of the most motivated people I know. [This team] started out as a bunch of strangers on the ice, but we all pulled together when we learned about [him],&8221; said Ullom&8217;s roommate and team founder Will Damare.

Damare and his teammates wear Ullom&8217;s number 29 in a red sticker on the back of their helmets every time they step on the ice.

Ullom, North, Hicks, Dunn and Smith are just five out of many that we either know personally or have heard of that battle cancer. If you&8217;re reading this and do not know of a cancer situation, then please consider yourself lucky.

However, don&8217;t wait to join the fight. In addition to this week&8217;s events, opportunities to get into the fight will arise all over the county in the spring.

Shelby County will have five ACS Relay for Life events this spring beginning with a new relay in Oak Mountain on March 23, Hoover (April 20), North Shelby community (May 4), South Shelby community (May 4) and West Shelby community (May 18).

For more information on the relays or how to help fight visit the ACS website, www.cancer.org