By JEFF MEYERS
---- — SARANAC — Four seniors on the Saranac varsity girls’ soccer team have taken it upon themselves to support breast-cancer-awareness programs across the region.
With support from their teammates and head coach Mary LoTemplio, the girls held a Cancer Awareness Night during a recent home game at the Saranac soccer field.
“We’re all doing this to raise awareness for breast cancer,” said Miranda Marnes of the four seniors’ efforts as part of their National Honor Society’s Legacy Project.
“We’ve seen family members and friends battle breast cancer,” added teammate Kristen Napper. “It’s been a big part of all of our lives, so it’s something we all felt like doing.”
The girls held a bake sale prior to the game and also sold pink bracelets in honor of breast-cancer awareness and to raise funds for the Treasure Chests breast-cancer support group, organized through the FitzPatrick Cancer Center in Plattsburgh.
“It’s something we did last year (as part of the varsity squad), so this year we decided to take it on as the four seniors on the team,” said Brooke Lahee.
LoTemplio sought and was granted permission from the Northern Soccer League to wear pink socks during the Cancer Awareness Night contest, which was also Senior Night for the girls.
The evening also featured game balls decorated in pink markings in honor of those who have faced breast cancer and their families.
“It’s nice to know that we are raising money for a good cause,” said Jaelyn Johnston. “It’s a good feeling to give back to the community.”
The Northern New York Chapter of Guardians of the Ribbon was also on hand with its pink fire truck, a rolling symbol for breast-cancer awareness.
The girls also see their efforts as a way to help end breast cancer once and for all.
“Finding a cure takes money,” Marnes said. “Every little bit (raised) may bring us closer (to finding a cure).”
The girls have been teammates and classmates for most of their education and soccer careers. Their friendship has created a camaraderie that goes above and beyond their efforts on the soccer field and in the classroom.
“They’re remarkable girls,” LoTemplio said of the quartet. “They do everything that’s expected of them and more. They made the decision that they wanted to give back to the community in some way. I’ve helped, but it’s all been them. They’ve organized all of this, and I’m very proud of them.”
The girls also sang a breast-cancer awareness song during halftime and welcomed breast-cancer survivor and Saranac special-education teacher Nanette Niemann, who spoke to an enthusiastic audience during the break.
“I am very impressed, flattered and honored for all they have done,” Niemann said of the seniors, adding that LoTemplio, the other players and the players’ families were also instrumental in having a successful night.
“It was all about being a breast-cancer survivor and all the positives that have happened in my life since then,” Niemann said of how her life has changed since first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. “Breast cancer cannot destroy your confidence; I have seen an increase in my confidence ever since my diagnosis.”
Niemann said she was admittedly nervous speaking to the Senior Night crowd, never having spoken in public on the subject before, but she was glad she could help the girls promote awareness.
Niemann underwent radiation treatment after the diagnosis and has been cancer free ever since.
As their final year on the Saranac soccer field nears its culmination, the seniors have already set their sights on bright futures.
Napper hopes to become an elementary teacher while Johnston and Lahee are both considering careers in health care.
Marnes is undecided but leaning toward teaching, pharmacy or psychology.
Whatever direction their career decisions take them, they have already made a huge impact on the North Country through their efforts to end breast cancer’s hold on society.
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