Scott Simmons has lost a pair of uncles to cancer.
His dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer a little more than a year ago, but is doing better each and every day.
To say Simmons has had his eyes opened by the disease is an understatement.
“It’s definitely something that has touched home,” he acknowledges.
Now, the Kentlake High girls basketball coach is making a statement of his own. Along with a handful of family members, athletes from the school’s girls basketball team — and anyone else who wants to join — Simmons will be leading a team in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Covington, Maple Valley and Black Diamond this Friday and Saturday at Tahoma Junior High.
The event will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday and run until 2 p.m. on Saturday.
In light of his family’s struggles with the deadly disease, Simmons felt gathering a team was the least he could do. The loss of former Kentlake basketball standout Carly Stowell, who passed away from an acute cardiac arrhythmia a little more than a year ago, also played a paramount role in the effort, Simmons conceded.
“I feel like, if I wasn’t going out of my way to serve this community and people in general, then I would be letting Carly Stowell down,” Simmons said. “As hard as she worked to excel, improve, and be great at everything she tried, this is the least I can do. She set a standard of excellence and showed a work ethic that I will always have to push myself and extend my comfort boundaries to live up to.”
Each year, in cities across the nation, Relay for Life brings communities together in the fight against cancer. From Friday night until Saturday afternoon, teams from various cities will come together at Tahoma Junior High to honor cancer survivors and to remember those who didn’t make it. Cancer survivors, families and friends will walk the track at the school to bring awareness and raise funds for American Cancer Society.
It’s a cause as much as it is a way of life for the Simmons-led Kentlake girls basketball program. Along with putting together the Carly Stowell Invitational basketball tournament in December, Simmons’ players also donated their time tutoring elementary school students and helped raise food for local food banks during the school year.
“It’s just us giving back for a good cause,” said Kentlake junior-to-be Dakotah Sisco, a point guard on the basketball team. “But hopefully it will inspire some others to do it, too. I think that if we do it, maybe other teams might want to as well.”
So far, Kentlake has nine members on its team, but Simmons is hoping more join in the coming week. Teams from other schools — whether it be Kentwood, Tahoma, Kent-Meridian, Kentridge, or anywhere else — are more than welcome to join the Falcon contingent, Simmons noted.
“Absolutely. I would love for that to happen,” he said. “Some people have said they’re interested, but haven’t signed up yet.”
Many of those include members of the Kentlake girls basketball team itself, which has run into a bit of a scheduling glitch with a summer tournament. The tournament just happens to have fallen on the same weekend as the relay.
“We all wanted to do it … then some of us found out we couldn’t make it,” said Kentlake junior-to-be Morganne Comstock, a forward on the basketball team. “But we can still donate.”
Which is currently what many of the players on the team are trying to drum up right now. Simmons began pulling members together for the event several months ago with the idea of raising $2,000. Entering Thursday, Kentlake had raised a grand total of $1,025 for Relay for Life.
“I don’t think we’re going to get near $2,000,” Simmons lamented. “But if we could get $1,400 or $1,500 …”
Things haven’t gone exactly as planned, said the 32-year-old Simmons, who will be getting married in Eastern Washington next month and who also is organizing a youth summer basketball camp for second through ninth graders that will take place at the school from June 30 through July 3.
“I feel very disorganized,” he said. “It’s kind of like I am driving a car blind. It’s a learning experience as we go. But we plan on coming back next year, hopefully with a little better attendance from the kids.”
During the event, cancer survivors will get the track to themselves for a lap. In addition, there will be a Ceremony of Hope or Luminaria. During this time, as the day fades into the night, team members complete laps around the track, which is lit by a individual bags with a single candle in each. Each candle represents a person who has been affected by cancer.
For Simmons, those candles will represent as much his two uncles and his dad as it does his basketball program. A program that is about considerably more than X’s and O’s.
“One of the biggest fears is you lose part of your foundation … the thought of losing my dad tore me apart, especially after losing Carly a short time before that,” he said. “Fortunately, my dad is OK. But it grabbed ahold of me real tight, made me wake up and take notice.
“There are things going on, things you can do to be a part of to help.”