Northern Westchester kids and moms score touchdowns for charity in Katonah flag football tournament
The Friday after Thanksgiving, around one hundred Northern Westchester residents braved below freezing temperatures to participate in the 1st Annual Sports Center Consulting Turkey Shootout, a flag football fundraising tournament to benefit local charity Love Holds Life. Six teams of local middle schoolers and three teams of moms each battled it out in separate tournaments, but the true purpose of the day was to support local families who are facing the biggest battle of their lives: pediatric cancer.
“I've always wanted to do something around Thanksgiving,” said Adam Kern, director of Sports Center Consulting, which runs flag football leagues throughout the year for students in Kindergarten through middle school. “It’s a time to be grateful. To me it was the perfect synergy: an opportunity for us to try to give back and do something that the kids would feel good about.”
Hopewell Junction-based Love Holds Life was founded in 2012 to support Michael Montana, a then 11-year-old Patterson boy who was diagnosed with leukemia. Since then, the non-profit has supported families throughout the region by providing financial assistance to help with the myriad expenses associated with cancer treatment.
“Most organizations out there don’t monetarily assist,” said Richard Senato, founder of Love Holds Life. “We’re more interested in taking care of the situation instead of putting a Band-Aid on it,” he said, noting that Love Holds Life typically stays with a family over a two to three-year period, financially supporting expenses not typically covered by medical insurance.
The Turkey Shootout raised $2,000 for Love Holds Life, a sum that both Senato and Kern acknowledged is modest in light of the costs of medical care, but one that they hoped to build upon in future years, aided by donor support. “I’m not a fan of giving to these enormous charities where you feel like your donation is lost or is used for administrative purposes,” Kern said. “It's this great abyss that the money disappears into. It was really important to me to make sure that we connected with a local charity. We're not raising millions of dollars; we're not moving mountains. But, I know that our donation will help one specific family. For me that's enough.”
One such family is that of Kiah Papaiya, a 7-year-old from Edgewater, New Jersey. Papaiya was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that most commonly affects teenagers. “This is a godsend,” said Kiah’s mother, Jaya Karnani, of the support that she has received from Love Holds Life. “This cancer diagnosis was completely devastating. The financial burden became so strong. Finding people like Richard and organizations that are able to understand what a parent goes through is a huge blessing. I feel that I can concentrate on my child and not be worried about medical payments and making rent.”
For Kern, who interacts with hundreds of kids each year through SCC flag football, adding a fundraising element to his already successful endeavor was critical. “It’s important that they understand the importance of giving back, and that not everything is all rosy for kids their age or younger,” Kern said. “I thought middle school was an appropriate age to introduce that concept and hopefully have them pause and realize that they have a lot to be grateful for as well.”
In addition to the middle schoolers, teams of moms from Somers, Katonah and North Salem took part in the tournament. “They were all taking it seriously,” Kern noted. “When you channel that competitive spirit toward a really good cause, it's really a wonderful part of what we do. To see the moms taking it seriously and giving it their all was really just a feel good moment.”
Click below to view a photo gallery from the event.
*Editor's note: this reporter participated in the Turkey Shootout.