Thursday's matchup at York College may not appear all that enticing on paper.
The Spartans' women's basketball team (10-0), ranked No. 11 in the latest NCAA Division III poll and No. 12 by d3hoops.com, should win by a wide margin over Elizabethtown (2-6). But E-Town will feature freshman guard Rachel Forjan, the York Catholic grad who helped the Irish win four straight PIAA District 3-AA titles and finish as state runner-up three times.
But something even more important will take place at halftime of the game at the Charles Wolf Gymnasium inside the Grumbacher Center. The Spartans will hold their first-ever "Teddy Bear Toss," an event being organized by York freshman Abbey Rhodes, the Hanover High graduate who started the once-a-year tradition at home Hawkettes' girls' basketball games four years ago.
"It's just something I like to do," Rhodes said Sunday evening following York's 56-48 win over The College of New Jersey. "I want to give back. I like the idea of it. Everyone else seems to want to participate in it."
Rhodes said more than 5,000 teddy bears were collected in the tosses at Hanover the last four years. The stuffed bears are donated to Caitlin's Smiles, a charity that donates stuffed animals to children with cancer.
Tumor: The toss all stemmed from a grapefruit-sized tumor Rhodes had removed from her chest the summer before her freshman year at Hanover.
"I found out (about the tumor) when I was on vacation in North Carolina. My chest was almost vibrating the whole vacation," Rhodes said. "They thought it was my asthma so I waited until I got home. I later had a softball game and a basketball game and after the basketball game I was balling (crying) it hurt so bad.
"I went to my doctor's office. They were just going to give me a breathalyzer-type treatment. That didn't help so I went and got scans and they found it. I never had asthma my whole life. It was the tumor. They just never found out about it until then."
Rhodes soon had surgery to remove the non-cancerous tumor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where she spent five days recovering before returning home. It was during that brief stay at Johns Hopkins in the summer of 2008 when Rhodes was comforted by Mackenzie Stuck, who was battling brain cancer -- Mackenzie died from the condition in 2010 at the age of 13.
Giving back: Rhodes originally started the toss, an event similar to the one the Hershey Bears' ice hockey team holds, to give back to kids like Mackenzie.
"Being stuck in the hospital, it's not fun," Rhodes said. "So just to do something for them. I saw the Hershey Bears do the teddy bear toss so I incorporated it at my high school."
Rhodes has passed off the responsibilities at Hanover to a couple current Hawkettes. Now she's hoping it becomes an annual tradition at York College.
"It's not going to be as big here (at York College) because it's the first year," Rhodes said. "It's just getting everything together and getting this first year settled in and see how things go."
So, if you want something to do Thursday night, feel free to stop out at the game, which starts at 6 p.m. And make sure to bring a teddy bear. It'll play a part in putting a smile on a child's face.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.