What: Flowery Branch High School vs. Winder-Barrow High School
When: Tonight at 7:30
Where: Falcon Field
Putt Away Cancer Tournament
What: Miniature golf tournament with proceeds supporting CURE
When: Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: The Oaks Miniature Golf, 3709 Whiting Road, Gainesville
Cost: Tickets are $10 each and $5 for children 10 and younger. Teams of three to five people will be eligible to win gift cards.
Flowery Branch High School’s Falcon Field is about to get a lot shinier tonight.
The peer leadership classes at the school have organized a “Gold Out” for tonight’s game against Winder Barrow. The metallic spirit is an effort to raise money and awareness for Atlanta-based CURE Childhood Cancer.
“Our student section is animated and does a theme every week,” said Lauren Howell, a teacher at the high school. “So my students decided it would be fun (to do a Gold Out) and help get awareness out there.”
One of the school’s football players, Keaton Coker, is battling a form of brain cancer. The 16-year-old offensive lineman was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and had surgery on Aug. 10 to remove a tumor. Midway through September, Coker was lining up at the line of scrimmage.
Coker’s inspiration has helped fuel passion for the Gold Out, said Brooke Young, one student organizing the project.
“I feel like our entire student body is excited and pumped up about this,” she said. “It’s awesome. I really do think this is honestly the biggest thing I’ve seen our school rally around.”
Flowery Branch football coach Chris Griffin said the Gold Out is a chance for the team to pay tribute to those with childhood cancer.
“We see it as a privilege to be able to honor something that’s hit some close to home,” Griffin said. “It’s extra special because we’re all so close with Keaton. He’s one of our leaders and just a great young man, and even if you forget what he’s had to deal with, he’s just special to us.
“We seem to forget that when we first started the season, he was laying in a hospital room having brain surgery. It’s been an inspiration for many people.”
Howell’s 43 students have been selling gold shirts for students and fans to wear to the game. As of Wednesday, almost 700 shirts were sold.
“It definitely took off,” Howell said. “And if we had more time, I think we could have sold 1,000 shirts.”
Flowery Branch fans aren’t the only ones purchasing the shirts, which cost $10. Students from North Hall High School and North Hall Middle School have snatched up some of the golden threads to show their support.
“It’s been nice seeing two rival high schools come together for a good cause,” Howell said.
Initially only about 200 shirts were going to be produced by The LogoMotive in Commerce.
“It got a lot bigger than a lot of us expected,” said Brian Gerdes with the screen printing business. “Cancer is ravaging my family, so I was glad to be able to help out however I can.”
Gerdes said he had to make the shirts within 24 hours to ensure they were delivered in time for the Gold Out.
Along with gold-covered fans, the football players and band members will be sporting some gold as well tonight.
Griffin said he thinks the football players will get an extra spark from the Gold Out and what it stands for.
“It always gives you a little extra motivation to know that you’re playing for a group of kids that typically wouldn’t have those opportunities and have had some privileges taken away from them.” he said. “It’s just a chance for us to play for something bigger than ourselves.”
Cheerleaders will be cheering in Gold Out shirts as well, Howell said.
“I really believe that our side of the stadium will literally be gold on Friday night,” she said. ”It’s going to (be) quite a sight.”
Gold is the color for childhood cancer awareness, something very few people know, Howell said.
“(The Gold Out) is mostly to raise awareness and then to really raise some money for CURE because a lot of pediatric cancer research has to be privately funded,” Howell said. “And since it’s in Atlanta, all of that money actually stays here and serves our kids locally.”
CURE’s Director of Development Dawn Stark said Howell had worked with the nonprofit in the past. Howell, whose son is in remission from cancer, approached the group about working with the leadership classes.
“She wanted to use CURE as the nonprofit organization that they work alongside,” Stark said. “That’s really exciting for us.”
Stark said she spoke to the classes, and plans to go back again. The students have done several fundraisers that have benefited the research organization, and the awareness they’ve raised has been extremely helpful, Stark said.
“It’s crucial for us to get the word out as much as possible about the funding that we’re doing for pediatric cancer because there’s just not a lot of funding for pediatric cancer.” she said, adding that the students are helping the word “get out there.”
The events aren’t over with the referee’s last whistle tonight. There also is the Putt Away Cancer Tournament on Saturday at The Oaks Miniature Golf in Gainesville. Tickets for the event are $5 for children 10 or younger and $10 for all other golfers. Tickets include entrance to a food room. All proceeds will benefit CURE. Teams of three to five people will be eligible to win a gift card.
Young, who played a big role in organizing the miniature golf tournament, said tickets for Saturday will be sold during the Gold Out.
“We’ve had a lot of people who have helped; we have different sponsors at each hole,” she said. “The Oaks has been really great at working with us.”
Howell said students were solely responsible for the tournament and “set every bit of it up.”
“They have done all the recruiting work on sponsors, prizes and raffles,” she said. “They’ve worked so hard on this, and I’m really proud.
“I teach the best students in the world.”