The color pink appeared in unexpected places at Hauppauge High School on Friday. From the boys' jerseys to the girls' jerseys. From the cleats to the shin guards. From the mohawks in the boys' hair to the streaks in the girls' hair. From the lines on the field to the soccer ball crossing them.
But as the sun set during the fifth annual Kicks for Cancer fundraiser, which honors former student Courtney Tomkin who passed away from brain cancer in 2008 at the age of 17, something poetic happened.
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The sky turned pink.
Whether it was a message from the heavens or pure coincidence, the bright pink sky spotted with clusters of clouds seemingly so close you could touch them provided not only the perfect backdrop for the night's main event but the perfect tribute for the girl that an estimated crowd of 1,500 came to honor.
"It's such a positive experience," said Jessica Sherrow, Tomkin's sister. "It's really nice that the community comes out and supports my sister. Still to this day, you can see how many people she inspired and it's breathtaking. This brings a smile to all of our faces and we can't thank the people of Hauppauge enough for what they've done for my family. This event is just so special."
In addition to the boys and girls soccer games, the event included inflatable bounce houses for kids, a DJ, food, raffles and the sale of Kicks for Cancer apparel and merchandise with all proceeds going to the Making Headway Foundation and American Cancer Society.
Former Hauppauge student and soccer player Alexis Gonzalez said she helped start Kicks for Cancer with Hauppauge girls varsity soccer coach Jesseca Kulesa in 2008 because she wanted to do something for Tomkin, her close friend who she remembered as an outgoing and carefree person that always had a smile on her face.
The initial goal was to raise $15,000. In its first year, she said the event raised $35,000. Now with 56 additional schools participating and hosting their own events, Kicks for Cancer has raised more than $100,000 in four years.
"We started this when things weren't great in the economy and people were still giving and donating," Gonzalez said. "Each year we get more sponsors and more donations. Almost everything here is donated. It's been five years now and, to be honest, I can't even imagine where it will be five years from now."
The trademark of Kicks for Cancer is the doubleheader of sorts for the Hauppauge varsity soccer teams. The boys kicked things off with a 4-1 win over Copiague behind a goal and two assists from Vincenzo Zuccala.
"Everything being done here is for a great cause," said David Hwang, the Hauppauge boys goalkeeper. "There's a lot of hope for the future."
The girls team took the field shortly after, pink sky overhead.
Nicole LoRusso scored on a free kick from 30 yards out with 7:12 remaining in the second overtime to lift Hauppauge to a 1-0 win over Lindenhurst. Diana Poulin had four saves in the shutout as Hauppauge remained unbeaten.
"Being part of this is more than just a game," Hauppauge midfielder Juliette Loccisano said. "It's something special for all of us. Courtney was such a great person all around. Seeing everyone come out here and support her just makes us feel connected to her. It's such a great experience to be part of."
It's an experience that draws a lot of people, raises a lot of money and produces a lot of pink. More importantly, it brings a tight-knit community together as they remember one of their own in Courtney Tomkin.
"She would be so proud of all these people and everything that they've done to keep her memory alive," Sherrow said. "I know she's smiling down on us."
From that bright pink sky overhead.