When Ravenscroft and North Raleigh Christian met for a late-season matchup between crosstown rivals, students and fans backed their respective squads, but all were in unison for a greater battle than the one taking place on the basketball court.
Fans from both schools wore orange from head to toe, cloaking Ravenscroft’s Finley Center in a sea of the color representing leukemia awareness as the Ravens hosted a Strike Out Leukemia event in conjunction with its annual winter fan night Tuesday.
The school teamed up with North Raleigh Christian to support an NRCA student battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Harrison McKinion, a fifth-grader, was diagnosed with the disease in December 2011.
More than a year later, his cancer is in remission, but Harrison is still undergoing chemotherapy.
Harrison is a big sports fans and hopes to one day play for NRCA. But for now, he says he doesn’t want to be “that cancer kid.” He just wants to be a normal kid.
That makes nights like last Tuesday’s event at Ravenscroft bittersweet.
“It’s kind of a mixed emotion,” said Harrison’s dad, Steve McKinion. “You’re glad that his story can help other kids, but you don’t want to have that story. You just try to look at it as your own suffering can be good for others.”
Spectators donated money to Project Hero, an organization benefitting families of childhood cancer patients, to receive orange wristbands.
“Any time you can get kids from rival schools together for something like this, it’s just great,” said NRCA athletics director and girls’ basketball coach Steve Lykins. “We’re very touched by their gesture. And to include Harrison was really nice.”
NRCA’s varsity girls’ basketball team sported orange socks and the school’s cheerleaders wore orange ribbons in their hair.
The varsity boys’ teams from both schools wore the orange wristbands during pregame warm-ups and then presented the bands to Harrison at midcourt before tipoff.
“I have a big place in my heart for people with cancer. It has struck my family three times,” said Ravenscroft boys’ basketball coach Kevin Billerman. “To see Harrison here today with a smile on his face just made my heart beam. Basketball and sports have the ability to warm people’s hearts with events like this, and if you looked in Harrison’s eyes, he was so happy to be a part of the game, and I’m glad we could do this.”
The event showed the power of sports and community, and reminded students that the friendly rivalry between Ravenscroft and NRCA is a small thing in the grand scheme of life, said Ravenscroft senior Will Barefoot, who helped organize the event.
“It goes beyond the game, spirit-wise,” said Barefoot, who is also co-president of the Ragin’ Ravens club. “We just want to help keep everyone aware of the things that are bigger than the (school) spirit and the games and the rivalry.”