Purple power: The names on the jerseys

Purple power: The names on the jerseys

Joe Sigler

Starting in 2013, the West Ottawa basketball program changed their annual Pink Out for Breast Cancer games to Purple Power. This switch allowed WO to help those searching for a cure for all types of cancer. This year, the event included a Varsity Boys and Girls basketball game, brought the community together, and raised an incredible amount of money. Along with the home student section, the Black Hole, having a purple theme, the players on the WO teams wore custom purple uniforms. Players honored family members or friends who have fought cancer by wearing their names on the back of their jerseys. Everybody saw the names on the jerseys, but many do not know their stories.

  A battle with cancer does not just affect the one battling. Everyone in the patient’s family fights alongside them. This year’s Purple Power game had extra meaning for Sr. Hunter Bedford. This year he honored his father, Heath Bedford, who has been battling skin cancer since his son can remember. “He went through a rough patch a few years ago where he was constantly going back to the doctor to get sections of skin removed from his back and his neck and his face. Now it has cleared up a bit, and as a family, we are so relieved,” Bedford said. Bedford also talked about how much it meant to play for his dad in this game. “He has always motivated me to be the best that I can be, and seeing him fight this cancer with such strength and perseverance has taught me to be a stronger person, on and off the basketball court,” Bedford said. Mr. Bedford is healthy at the moment, but Bedford knows it is not the same way for every family. “If you know someone who is battling cancer, support them, keep your head up, and stay positive. That’s the best way to help them fight,” Bedford said.

  Sr. Libby Duistermars played for her grandmother Bert VonIns. VonIns, who her grandchildren call “Mimi,” was diagnosed with breast cancer before Duistermars was born, and luckily beat the disease after a long battle. “It was a hard battle, but she overcame and beat the cancer. I’m very glad Mimi wasn’t taken away from me before I even knew her. She is a wonderful person and an even better grandma,” Duistermars said. Duistermars also had the chance to play for Mrs. Moeke, a former Harbor Lights secretary. Duistermars shared that her family and the Moeke family have been close friends for years. When asked about what it meant to play for her, as well as her grandmother, Duistermars said “She is a very sweet, hardworking woman who fought a brave battle and overcame her cancer. I am very grateful for the opportunity to represent both of these amazing women and be able to share their stories.”

  Jr. Caiya Dewitt also wore two jerseys this year at Purple Power. She wore a jersey donning the name of Gerrit Byl, her great-grandfather who lost his battle with cancer before Dewitt could meet him. “He was an incredible basketball player in his day, so it’s really cool to be able to wear a jersey in his name,” Dewitt said. She also wore a jersey with Thom Ly’s name on the back. Ly recently lost his battle with cancer. “His absence is felt deeply by his family and I am humbled to represent him during Purple Power,” Dewitt said.

  The boys team defeated Caledonia 73-40, led by Jake Van Tubbergen’s game high 26 points. Tyler Bosma had 20 points in the win. The team cut down the nets after the victory to celebrate their conference championship, which they won after going 12-0 in the OK Red. The girls team fell to Caledonia 48-37. Natalie Dunn led the Panthers with 12 points while Dani Kuiper had 9. More importantly, the West Ottawa community raised thousands of dollars for cancer research and honored many people who have fought or are still fighting cancer.