The Sewanhaka High School Indians marching band was not in its usual purple, white, black and gold uniforms at Saturday’s homecoming game. Instead, the high school musicians donned white shirts with the tagline “Sewanhaka Tackles Leukemia.” So did many of the spectators in the stands.
The Football Booster Club started raising money for Winthrop-University Hospital Cancer Center for Kids a few weeks ago in honor of sophomore James Sokol, 15, who was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year. A Sewanhaka teacher’s child was also diagnosed shortly after, and the club looked for a way to give a helping hand. Sokol’s mother, Cathy, told them about the center, which is where Sokol was treated.
“We’re the football [booster] club so we decided to, you know, pitch in and help out,” said Maggie DeVita, 54, the club’s vice president. “Homecoming is today so we thought ‘What a perfect way to tie it all together.’”
The Booster Club had a pancake breakfast a few weeks ago to raise money. The club also made an arrangement with King Umberto’s on Hempstead Turnpike to help with the fundraising. For every touchdown that the Indians scored at the homecoming game against the Division Avenue High School Blue Dragons, King Umberto’s would donate $50.
Before the game started Saturday, the Booster Club had already raised $2,295, including money raised from the sale of the T-shirts.
Sewanhaka won the game against Division Avenue 35-14, totaling five touchdowns for the team and a pending $250 donation from King Umberto’s.
“Nobody likes cancer,” said Mustafa Bayran, 17, who bought one of the Booster Club’s shirts a few days ago and wore it at the game. “So I wanted to help out.”
Sokol finished treatment seven weeks ago and has more or less resumed his normal lifestyle, his mother said, including playing in the marching band and competing with the track team. She said her son was healthy, though not technically considered in remission yet.
"His doctors high-five him when he walks in the room," she said.
During his treatment, Sokol's teacher tutored him and provided updates from the classroom and the in-between such as homework or seeing his friends around the building. She called Sewanhaka a "positive force" during her son's treatment.
"It's how you get support when you pray together and share together," Cathy Sokol said of the support her family received from the community. "It's the community saying 'We're going through this together.'"