By SARA ARTHURS
Basketball teams from the University of Findlay and Tiffin University, rivals on the court, will join forces Saturday to make a little boy’s wish come true.
Both the men’s and women’s teams will play Saturday and use the opportunity as a fundraiser for Cooper, a young boy who hopes to go to Disney World through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The teams faced each other earlier in the season in Tiffin, when a similar fundraiser was held.
Cooper, 7, is a resident of Findlay. The Make-A-Wish Foundation does not provide last names.
Kaleigh Kenny, a student athlete on the women’s basketball team and president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, said this is the second year the schools have teamed up for Make-A-Wish.
“Cooper, who we ‘adopted,’ is really into superheroes,” Kenny said, so the teams’ theme for the fundraiser is “Cooper Man.” Players will hand out superhero capes at Saturday’s game. Fans are encouraged to dress in costume, which will be held at Croy Gymnasium. Women tip off at 1 p.m. and men at 3 p.m.
The student athletes are selling 50/50 tickets at the games and they held a “kids’ night” at a cost of $20 per child to raise funds for Cooper’s wish. Children could do arts and crafts, watch movies and color. Kenny said they got a “great turnout.”
Cooper’s Make-A-Wish biography says he likes to watch “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Lego Star Wars,” to play “Connect Star Wars” and to read his favorite book, “Super Hero ABC’s.”
Cooper has been diagnosed with meningitis, a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, and pilocytic astrocytom, tumors of the central nervous system. But, according to the Make-A-Wish Foundation he doesn’t let his health “dampen his spirit.”
He wishes to visit Walt Disney World in order to meet Donald Duck, Buzz Lightyear and the Star Wars characters and to ride the park’s fastest rides. The Walt Disney Co. will provide theme park tickets and other perks to Cooper and his family, including two young siblings, as part of their relationship with Make-A-Wish.
Brandi Laurita, assistant athletic director and senior women’s administrator at the University of Findlay Department of Athletics, said it isn’t yet known exactly when the trip will take place.
The teams are also selling T-shirts for $5. These are available to anyone in the community, Laurita said. Donations will also be accepted in collection jars at the game. Anyone wishing to donate or purchase a T-shirt can stop by Laurita’s office in the Koehler Center’s administrative offices. Checks should be made out to the University of Findlay Department of Athletics.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II has a partnership with Make-A-Wish, Laurita said.
“I think it’s a positive experience for everyone involved,” she said.
Kenny said the hope is to incorporate the fundraiser into other sports as well.
Kenny enjoyed meeting Cooper at the game held at Tiffin.
“He’s really shy” but eventually came out of his shell, she said.
Arthurs: 419-427-8494 Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs
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