BHMS girls basketball team raises funds for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

In honor of players Kayla and Abby Kulikowski’s mother, the BHMS community joined together in a teacher versus student fundraiser to benefit LLS.

The Bunker Hill Middle School girls basketball team, along with coach Lisa Bramante and BHMS principal Mike D’Ostilio pose with their $1,257 donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The check was presented to campaign director Genna Toye at BHMS on March 20. Photo: Krista Cerminaro, The Sun

By Krista Cerminaro

The dictionary defines the word “team” as a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. Bunker Hill Middle School girls basketball coach Lisa Bramante’s definition of the word — her basketball players.

The girls showed a true display of teamwork after organizing a fundraiser in honor of players Kayla and Abby Kulikowski’s mother, Michele, who was diagnosed with leukemia in October.

The team — with the help of Bramante and BHMS students and staff — was able to present a $1,257 donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on March 20, after hosting a successful teacher versus student basketball game on March 9.

“I came up with the idea because I wanted to give some support to Kayla and Abby, who are on the team. I also have them as students. So, I talked to [principal Michael] D’Ostilio, and he thought it was a great idea,” said Bramante, who is also a health and physical education teacher at BHMS. “Everyone jumped on board — the whole team helped organize, make posters, advertise — teachers organized to come and play. It was a real group effort.”

Bramante said she wanted the sisters — both in eighth grade — to know they’re loved at BHMS.

“That’s the great thing about being part of a team, is to know that you have that group, that support,” Bramante said.

“We wanted to do something for my mom, and Mrs. Bramante came up with the idea to come up with a teachers versus students basketball game, and all the money we raised would go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” Kayla said.

Bramante got permission from the girls’ mother prior to putting the event together, as the money was donated in Michele’s name.

“Both she and I were so worried that nobody was going to come, and then it got postponed because of one of the snowstorms,” Michele joked. “The gym was packed. It was so much fun.”

Michele said Bramante really kept an eye on her daughters through the process, making sure they were OK.

“This is Mrs. Bramante — she is amazing,” Michele said. “I can’t even say enough wonderful things about her and what she has done with my girls [and] the whole team.”

The support that filled the gymnasium was evident to Michele, whose entire family attended the fundraiser. While her two girls played against the teachers, her oldest son — along with her mother and sister — attended the game, her husband reffed, and her second-oldest son, who is corps commander for the high school’s ROTC program, brought in the honor guard.

Michele also delighted in seeing the students and teachers coming together.

“The students that attended were cheering for the teachers,” Michele said. “They were goofy and some of them couldn’t dribble a basketball — but they were there, and they participated and they let people see that they were human. It just was such an awesome event. I smiled the whole time.”

Michele was diagnosed in October, after an injury during a soccer game landed her daughter Kayla in the hospital.

She had been feeling short of breath, fatigued and weak — but as a mother of four, assumed the exhaustion was a result from constantly running around, between work and travel sports.

“We went to the emergency room — she was cleared of a concussion, but they wanted her to take a few days off of sports. And then within the hour, I was at Jefferson. They diagnosed me with Acute Myloid Leukemia,” Michele said.

According to Genna Toye, campaign director for the New Jersey chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, BHMS has raised more than $16,000 for LLS over the years.