St. Ignace to Host 10th Annual Hooping for a Cure Game
ST. IGNACE – The St. Ignace girls basketball program has a long tradition of success.
Ranked second in Class C with a record of 10-0, the Saints have won five state championships since 1999, and have made the trip down to East Lansing for the state finals five times since 2010.
It’s obvious these girls know how to play. Something else they excel in? Being good people.
This month, the Saints will be holding their 10th Annual Hooping for a Cure game, a tradition that has become a staple and symbol for hope in the small town in the Upper Peninsula. In the past nine years of the event, the Saints have raised more $134,000 for the cause, including $17,000 just last year.
“It’s awesome because it brings two communities together for common cause. It’s more than basketball. It gives back to the patients and the people fighting,” head girls basketball coach Dorene Ingalls said.
Former player and St. Ignace graduate Morgan LaVake agreed.
“It’s very emotional, it’s a lot of stuff you don’t see every day. It brings our community together to support a good cause,” she said. “It’s hard to say just one thing, the girls can see how there’s more to life than just basketball. There’s bigger things than just them.”
Businesses and individuals can sponsor players to donate to the cause at $100 apiece. Last year, each player had multiple sponsors, with people calling from Illinois and other parts of the Midwest to contribute to the cause. In addition, a doctor who had recently moved to the area called Ingalls asking if he could sponsor 10 of the players himself. He hadn’t even been to a game.
“When he did that,” Ingalls said, “I was speechless.”
According to Ingalls, the game benefits people affected by cancer locally to help out the community.
“It’s been really nice that it’s been kept local for the people in the community. Everyone is affected by it, it’s a really personal thing for a lot of people and the community has really embraced it. A lot of people really get involved,” she said.
This isn’t the only night that the Saints give back. In 2013, when the St. Ignace girls made it to the state finals, they made a point to visit the Breslin Cancer Center.
“We like to take our kids to hospitals to help them understand life lessons and help them understand the big struggles,” Ingalls said. “That’s where the real battles are.”
While there, the Saints accidentally crossed paths with a patient who was originally from St. Ignace who receiving treatment. Turns out, the patient, whose name is Kim LaForte had a personal connection to Dorene. Her son, Mike Syrjala, played for Ingalls’ husband, Doug, who coaches the boys’ team in St. Ignace. The Ingalls gave LaForte tickets to the game, which she came to, and the team hugged her after their state championship victory.
“I’m in tears thinking about it, it was awesome. After the game the girls ran up and gave her a hug. It’s more than just about themselves. It’s a good lesson for 16 year olds to learn,” Ingalls said.
“It made feel upset and happy. I wished I could do more, but I was happy we made her day and raised money for the cause [at Hooping for the Cure],” LaVake said.
According to Ingalls, multiple players have gone on to pursue degrees and careers in the medical field because their visits to hospitals and the game.
“It’s amazing, the kids get into it … it digs deep into their hearts,” Ingalls said.
To donate or sponsor a player contact Kim North or Mike Grisdale of the Foundation at Mackinac Straits Hospital at 906-643-0443.
The Annual Hooping for a Cure game takes place on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. The junior varsity game starts at 5 p.m., with raffles and events taking place in between the two games. The Saints will play Cedarville.
“It’s touching for the coaches, the players, and everyone involved” Ingalls said. “You have to be there to understand it … it’s a very inspiring night.”