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Editor’s Note: Every so often, our Sac-Joaquin region coordinator Jim McCue has something he wants to say. And it’s usually important. So he gets...

Editor’s Note: Every so often, our Sac-Joaquin region coordinator Jim McCue has something he wants to say. And it’s usually important. So he gets the First Pitch this month. See you in a few weeks. -CB. 

   Often times, sports are criticized for missing the point that they are just games. The early part of the Fall 2015 high school sports season has shown that sports can be a platform to support greater causes within the school, community and country.

   In Weeks 1 and 2 of the football season, The Honor Group — based in Loomis and headed by former coach Mark Soto — honored military veterans and first responders with football showcases in Southern California (at Oceanside High) and locally (at Del Oro-Loomis). It was the sixth year Soto has led the effort to “educate, empower, and equip” with a football showcase that has been recognized as one of the best in the nation. 

   Since 2010 The Honor Bowl has had over 100 teams that have come from four states (California, Nevada, Washington and Hawaii), and has included varsity, JV, freshmen, junior football programs and law enforcement teams.

   Meanwhile, St. Francis, an all-girls parochial school in Sacramento, used a recent match featuring its highly-touted volleyball program to raise cancer awareness. The Troubadours hosted Davis on Blood Cancer Awareness Night in support of St. Francis junior Natalie Woodruff. 

   Woodruff, who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May and began receiving treatment in July, is sitting out the season to battle the disease. Both teams wore variations of lime green, the official color of the fight against blood cancer, including hair ribbons, shoe laces, and special jerseys for the St. Francis varsity team — all of which had Woodruff’s name across the back.

   The junior was joined on the court by her parents and grandparents for a pregame prayer and Woodruff addressed both teams and those in attendance before the match. Additionally, staff from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society were present to recognize seniors Abby Fitzgerald, Sophie Huang and Mia Bonini for their fundraising efforts this past summer. 

   Longtime teammate Bailey Avery, also a junior, was excited and emotional following Woodruff’s appearance and address before the match, according to St. Francis Assistant Athletic Director, Steve Shaff.

   “I have been going to school with Natalie since the fourth grade,” Avery told Shaff after the Troubadours 3-0 win. “When she was giving her speech, it made everyone really emotional and I started tearing up. It made every one play with more heart because it was for someone we know.”

   Connecting games with a cause is noble, and adding the familiarity of a teammate and friend to the cause can be very powerful for all involved.

   “It was so much fun,” Woodruff said after the match. “I felt back at (St. Francis) and part of the community. I have always felt that, but tonight made it feel real.”

   Woodruff recently completed her fourth — and hopefully, final — round of treatment, and will get an MRI and PET scan soon with hopes of good news.

   The cancer awareness event at St. Francis was fitting as September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. In the United States, 15,780 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer every year, and about 1 in 4 of those will not survive the disease. Many of those affected are current or aspiring athletes who would gladly trade the chance to compete for a greater chance of survival. While sports will not save a child — athlete or not — from cancer, they can at least provide a platform to help raise awareness as well as funds for research and support.

   Sometimes the games are more than just that.

   If you or your school are playing for a cause this year, feel free to let us know. Send an e-mail with your cause or event to or Tweet us with #SportsForACause to spread the word and raise awareness.











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