HomeShamong NewsSeneca Field Hockey leads the fight against breast cancer

Seneca Field Hockey leads the fight against breast cancer


Seneca High School field hockey head coach Julie Smith and the rest of her staff believe in turning a negative scenario into a beneficial experience by generating whatever positive spin they can.

An example of this has been the great deal of awareness and money they have raised for breast cancer research over the past few Octobers.

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“Breast cancer, and cancer in general, has forever altered the lives of many people that I, and my field hockey coaches, love,” Smith said. “While we can’t change what has happened, we can work to make a positive impact.”

Smith preaches to her students that even in the darkest of times, when they feel most helpless, they have the ability to make a positive difference by channeling pain into motivation.

In 2011, she started piecing together small things to help support breast cancer awareness any way she could.

The team started with baked goods and temporary tattoos that ended up being a huge hit.

The tattoos really took off after she consulted head football coach Bill Fisher, asking if they could work with him on a football game.

The field hockey girls wore them to school and the student body immediately joined their efforts, buying and wearing them to the football game.

That first year, they raised nearly $600 to fight breast cancer, and the experience really opened Smith’s eyes.

“I saw our Seneca students’ willingness to support our cause and knew we could do even more,” Smith said.

Smith also wanted to have a “Play for the Cure” game, so she got together with Shawnee High School field hockey coach Renee Phelps to coordinate a game between the two teams they would dedicate each year to fighting breast cancer.

Unfortunately, the game hasn’t always worked out against Shawnee, due to scheduling or weather providing complications, so Seneca has decided to make it a home game in October each year.

The girls wear pink jerseys and gear Smith gets together each year for this game.

“It is a lot of planning. I have to order shirts that the different kids can wear in games, so they have to have numbers and names. I always have to worry about a possible mistake when I work with the distributors, but each year, I’ve found that no matter how exhausting it can be, it always ends up being worth it in the end after seeing how many people get involved,” Smith said.

In 2012, the team began wearing these shirts, along with the tattoos, in their Play for the Cure game, and they sold additional tattoos and shirts to the student body.

Once again, the football team dedicated a game to Playing for the Cure the following year. Students wore their shirts and tattoos, and again, the donations increased.

The following year, more fall sports teams started getting involved in the movement, and the Seneca youth field hockey program joined.

“The past few years have become even more meaningful to me, as people I love have suffered from cancer. Last year, the daughter of a former co-worker, a girl I coached when she was 8, lost a battle to cancer at the age of 17. Another girl I coached when I was an assistant college coach lost her mother to breast cancer,” Smith said.

Art teacher and freshman coach at the time Allison Ciavagila helped turned Smith’s vision of the logo they use for the shirts and other items into a reality with her creative background.

Parents also supported the team’s efforts by making baked goods and purchasing drinks, candy and other items to sell at the concession stand during the Play for the Cure game.

Smith could not say enough about the outpouring of assistance she has received from these outside sources to help achieve better results.

They now raise around $12,000 each year to donate to breast cancer research funds and get the whole school and community involved in the process.

As impressive as this is, Smith is just beginning her journey toward raising funds and knowledge.

“In my dream world, all the teams would be involved!” she said.


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