On May 21st and 22nd, 2016, The Max Cure Foundation and Casa Grande Union High School joined forces to host the first Cactus Classic Charity Football Tournament.
Thanks to the support of 19 Arizona youth football teams and their families, the tournament raised over $11,000 for the Arizona Roar Beyond Barriers program which provides financial support to four families in need who have a child battling cancer as well as the high school’s athletic program.
Teams ranging from ages 8 to 14 traveled from all over the Arizona, including the Kingman Fusion who drove nearly 4 hours to participate in the weekend’s event. Each team walked on the field with a goal of becoming the first Cactus Classic Champions, and whether they won or lost, they all walked off the field with their heads held high knowing they played hard for something bigger than a trophy.
The players and coaches had the opportunity to meet Zaiden and his family who are part of the Roar Beyond Barriers program. Zaiden is only 3-years-old who was diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumor in 2015. He had his right kidney removed and is currently undergoing chemo and radiation treatment.
Zaiden and his family volunteered both days working concessions, selling t-shirts and handing out medals and trophies to the first and second place champions. The 10U Voodoo and 14U Pirates honored Zaiden and his Mother with the “game ball” after their win. Zaiden was made an “honorary Pirate” and the 12U Warriors team Mom gave Zaiden’s Mom, Maria a spa session recognizing that she deserved some time for her after all she has been through. “I was quite humbled by this entire event” Maria said, “Everyone’s presence spoke volumes. I would like to thank you all for your love and support. May God bless you always” said Maria.
Every coach told their players they were playing to make a difference and win or lose they were all champions because their efforts made an impact on the lives of local families who have a child battling cancer. The Maricopa Heat 12U team lost in the championship game, but their coach, Mark Luna told his boys “7 children die every day from cancer and although they fought hard tonight, it is nothing in comparison to how these children have to fight everyday to survive.”
After the event, Erica Bailey, Max Cure Program & Marketing Director stated “I am a football Mom with two boys who play all year long. I know what these teams went through playing two and sometimes three games over the weekend. I saw the ambition in their eyes, the sweat on the brow, and the smiles on their faces, but hearing Coach Mark say that after his team played a difficult game brought tears to my eyes. I knew why I was out there, but experiencing the impact this event had on everyone involved gave me hope that one day, we will defeat childhood cancer.”
Melissa Goodsell, CGUHS representative said, “I went into this venture wanting to raise money for the high school. After all the work was done, I honestly walked away feeling like it was a worthwhile experience for the kids on the teams. I believe we were able to plant a philanthropic seed in the minds of school age kids, teaching them that they all can have an impact on the community. “
From both The Max Cure Foundation and Casa Grande Union High School, we sincerely thank everyone who participated in this successful first year event. It is our hope that together we will be able to host this event in Casa Grande for many years to come.