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HS BASKETBALL: Mid Valley raising money for Coaches vs. Cancer to help families in community

Times-Tribune - 2/19/2021

Feb. 19—Mike Abda has an appointment with a barber.

He will likely need a wool cap to keep his dome warm through the rest of the winter.

Mid Valley's boys basketball coach pledged to shave his head if the community raised $1,000 through its Coaches vs. Cancer fundraising effort this year.

It didn't take long to exceed that goal.

Through the motivation of the coach and the inspiration to support two members of the Spartans family who are battling the disease, others are going under the clippers, too, including assistant coaches and head girls basketball coach Denise Larson.

"It started with if we could raise $1,000, I was going to shave my head," Abda said. "Then a couple of my assistants said they would for every $250 after that. Then Denise said if we raised $4,000, she would shave her head. We are past $5,000.

"The community, as always, even in these tough times with the COVID-19, rallied."

This year's Coaches vs. Cancer game for the Spartans takes place tonight against Old Forge.

Mid Valley's close knit basketball and school communities were rocked by cancer diagnoses in recent years.

Ryan Evans is a member of the boys basketball team, who is battling Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Larissa Chmielewski, a former cheerleader, softball player, track athlete and 2017 graduate, is fighting Hodgkins Lymphoma.

The proceeds raised by donations for the head shaving and other efforts by the student council that include pledge for points and basket raffles will go to the families and the American Cancer Society. The student council will be selling pledge cards that will be entered into multiple raffles for gift cards, which is tentatively scheduled for March 5. Additional information and directions will be provided on the Fans of Mid Valley Basketball Facebook page.

"Obviously, this is important to us," Abda said. "Cancer hit close to home this year with Ryan being diagnosed. He was a member of our team, baseball and golf team. He's a very likeable kid and has a lot of friends. This really shook our community."

Evans received his diagnosis in the fall. He recently completed five rounds of chemotherapy at Geisinger in Danville and will soon begin outpatient therapy through July.

"It was extremely challenging for me and my family," Evans, 17, said. "I got pretty sick at times over the last three months, but I am feeling a lot better now that I finished the chemotherapy and I am working toward getting back some normalcy to my life."

His many appointments combined with his compromised health and coronavirus pandemic restrictions forced him to sit out this season. But his classmates and teammates rallied around him. They wear black T-shirts with a flourescent green ribbon and a Rally for Ryan on the front with images of golf clubs, a basketball and a baseball, his three sports, in his honor.

"It all comes down to us being one big family," said Mid Valley captain Tyler O'Connor, who is a close friend of Ryan's. "We are a tight community. We all know each other and have grown up with each other. We had a shirt a year or two ago that says "Family" and that is how I feel we all are here at Mid Valley. We are all so close and that means that we will always be there for each other.

"It's tough to see anybody go through what Ryan is going through, but he has such a great mindset and attitude. He never took a step back and took it on headfirst. He is a true survivor."

Days have been tough at times for Evans, but he battles cancer by getting plenty of rest, staying positive, focusing on schoolwork and binge-watching movies and television shows.

Watching livestreams of Spartans games energizes him.

Mostly, he's is getting through his most difficult times with the support of his Mid Valley family.

"It's just so humbling to see the great support my family and I have received," Evans said. "It's so amazing and makes things 10 times easier."

Contact the writer:; 570-348-9125; @sportsTT on Twitter


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