By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Jack Foley had wanted for two years to speak publicly about his father’s death due to brain cancer.
Last month, with the help of classmate TJ Morgera and the support of countless members of his Shrewsbury High School (SHS) community, he finally did that in the form of a pair of charity lacrosse games to benefit the nonprofit 15-40 Connection.
“It meant a lot to me just because, since it happened, I had really wanted to do something,” Foley said. “This gave me the opportunity to do that and to really make a difference.”
The event itself coincided with two previously scheduled lacrosse games by the SHS boys’ and girls’ teams. During those games, Foley and Morgera staffed a table offering information on the 15-40 connection, which seeks to save lives by promoting methods of early cancer detection. Counting their proceeds following the fundraisers concurrent with the games, the two were able to donate $2,773 to the Michael Bodge Tribute Fund, created in memory of a Shrewsbury resident and SHS graduate who passed away from testicular cancer in April.
“It became a lot more than TJ or I ever expected,” Foley said. “It went way more widespread than we thought it would.”
Started, indeed, as a school project to tackle an issue about which they both cared, Foley and Morgera settled on early detection of cancer due to the disease’s effects on their lives.
Beyond the loss of Foley’s father, Morgera lost his grandfather just five years ago and saw a friend recently contract testicular cancer and only survive thanks to early detection.
“We both realized that it was important to us and wanted to do something around that and surrounding that topic,” Morgera said.
From there, the duo contacted the 15-40 connection, who, in turn, suggested they involve the Bodge Tribute Fund.
“We weren’t that familiar with Mike starting out but [we started] talking with the athletic director, who had Mike as an athlete, and he only spoke good things about him,” Morgera said. “So we felt it was only natural and only kind of right to pair those two things.”
With the ball rolling, Morgera and Foley worked with SHS Athletic Director Jason Costa to move the games from their original 4 p.m. start times to a 7 p.m. slot to allow for more community members to attend. They also undertook a multimedia promotion effort using social networks and posters within their school to increase interest in their event.
“We got a lot of support from the school community, especially at lunch and on social media with re-tweets and re-publishes,” Morgera said. “It seemed like everyone in the school community was able to back it and spread support about the game.”
Now completing their junior year, and still riding the wave of this successful effort, Morgera and Foley are already looking to the future.
“We plan on doing it again,” Morgera said. “It was just so successful the first time around.”