ST. CHARLES – Players, coaches and fans each went their separate ways after the St. Charles North football team edged host St. Charles East, 35-34, in overtime Sept. 15.
A few hours earlier, however, most eyes were fixed on the lively, collaborative fundraising effort between the two school communities and their drill teams.
Shortly before kickoff, drill team members welcomed family and other volunteers in a bid to triumphantly “kick out” cancer after gathering donations for LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva, Fox Valley Food for Health and the Fox Valley Chapter of the American Cancer Society.
“You’ve got the Rockettes on one end and everybody from grandpa down to somebody who’s graduated from college in recent years, so there’s all sorts of levels of fitness,” Kick-A-Thon official Dawn Stippich said. “And it’s all in fun and it’s not competitive and no one is trying to outdo each other or anything like that.”
Certainly not. Far from it.
“I think the thing that makes it so special is the fact that it brings together the entire community,” Stippich said. “We’ve got dancers from St. Charles North and dancers from St. Charles East joining together to fundraise for our three beneficiaries. It brings in both sides of the crosstown rivalry. They work together, and all members of the community come out to kick.”
Kick-A-Thon is set to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2018 after surpassing $1 million in donations last year. The 2016 effort brought more than $100,000 in donations.
Drill team members, with the help of parent volunteers, begin planning in May of each year. Stippich said registration information typically starts coming in July, with various new contributors joining longtime Kick-A-Thon supporters.
In July, drill team members joined organizers and volunteers at a kickoff meeting at LivingWell, offering an invaluable, firsthand look at one of the organizations the effort benefits.
With East and North set to join the new DuKane Conference beginning next school year, Stippich said there’s “no fears” that the event will continue. Recent realignment to both schools’ longtime home, the Upstate Eight Conference, may have shifted the week the Saints and North Stars met each season, but it never kept the crosstown rivalry game off the schedule.
Players notice the lively atmosphere each year. The anticipation begins at the start of the week – and often before – but seeing Kick-A-Thon festivities signifies that kickoff finally is near.
“It’s crazy,” North Stars senior linebacker/wide receiver Billy Durocher said. “We know it. We love it.”
Kick-A-Thon officials are set to announce the 2017 fundraising total during the East-North girls and boys basketball doubleheader on Jan. 12 at East, Stippich said.
“Every penny we raise, we try and be able to give back to the beneficiaries,” Stippich said. “Of course, there’s going to be a couple of costs for paper plates and things like that, but other than that, every single dime that we make, we try and give back to the beneficiaries.”