By Callie Sharkey
Local nonprofit Flags for the Cure will host its annual flag football tournament early next year, from Jan. 2-6, 2019, at Acreage Community Park. The tournament includes divisions for men, women and children of all ages. The proceeds generated from the five-day event will benefit the American Cancer Society.
Teams are welcome to register until Friday, Dec. 28. There must be a minimum of seven players and no more than 14 players on each team. Since seven players are on the field at any given time, teams of at least 10 members are encouraged.
Due to excellent participation each year, the tournament divisions expanded to include the following: 10 and under coed; 13 and under coed, boys and girls; 15 and under boys and girls; 18 and under boys and girls; open women, men and coed; and a 30 and over women’s division.
This is a non-contact, flag football tournament. While the tournament begins with evening games on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the main event and opening ceremonies take place on Saturday, Jan. 5. The opening ceremonies begin at 11 a.m., and the day includes raffle prizes, a 50/50 raffle, and a silent auction along with food and drinks.
“The opening ceremony is also where cancer patients and survivors are recognized,” American Cancer Society Community Development Manager Lisa Noel said. “It is a time to remember those we’ve lost and those who survived.”
Noel has worked with Flags for the Cure for several years and explained the significance of the event. “They average about 50 teams participating. There are more than 500 players, and more than 100 volunteers between field staff, coaches and kitchen staff,” Noel said. “This is one of our biggest third-party events of the year. They are a wonderful, selfless group of men who were coaches, and they came together to do this for their daughters.”
One member who has been involved with the tournament for the past eight years is Mike Chase. He became fully involved with the group during its fourth year and watched as Flags for the Cure’s work turned into a large-scale community event.
“Keith Shivers and Chris Mathews really dreamed it up. They were personally impacted by breast cancer, and they were coaching in the Acreage Girls Flag Football league,” Chase said. “They leveraged the robust program into the first tournament in 2008.”
Despite having modest goals in that first year, the coaches managed to gather 15 teams. The goal at that time was to raise a few thousand dollars, but instead the tournament brought in more than $7,500.
The tournament has grown in the past 11 years, with more than $242,000 donated to cancer research during that time.
“Our first three or four years, the benefactor was focused on breast cancer, but we became aware of the American Cancer Society helping people in our community we knew and decided to switch,” Chase said. “We will go over the quarter of a million mark with this tournament.”
As a totally volunteer-run organization, the viability and continuation of the Flags for the Cure tournament are extremely important.
“We have one coach, Willie Freundlich, for 12 years he has been a coach for anywhere from one to five teams,” Noel said.
As the annual tournament continues to grow, so does the involvement of more participants from the community. “Fortunately, we have some wonderful new members coming in to help out,” Chase said. “What I like is long-time players who grew up in the program. One of those is Gabi Oliver, who is now one of our board members.”
The tournament is large enough to accommodate all ages, but most participants are high school age and adults. Some teams even have local businesses that sponsor their registrations.
All tournament games will take place in Acreage Community Park, located at 6701 140th Avenue North. For additional information, or to register a team in the tournament, visit www.flagsforthecure.com. For questions regarding registrations, call Pat McCarthy at (561) 714-8252. To volunteer, message the organization through the Flags for the Cure Facebook page.