Over the last five years, she has played a role in bringing smiles to the faces of more than 5,000 children with cancer.
This year, though, Abbey Rhodes wanted to do more for one child, in particular. A former Hanover High School multi-sport standout and a rising star on the York College track and field team, Rhodes heard about the case of Seth Goldsmith, a fifth-grader in the South Western School District who is battling lymphoma.
"The reason I found him is because my mom works in the South Western School District. So I then reached out to his mother," Rhodes said.
Rhodes had the idea to do an additional fund raiser to raise money for the Goldsmith family on top of the upcoming teddy bear toss at the York College women's basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 11, against Salisbury at 1 p.m. A raffle and T-shirt sale will be held at the game, with half the money going to the Goldsmith family and the other half going to the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.
Fans are mainly encouraged to bring teddy bears to the game to toss onto the floor at halftime. The bears are then collected by members of both women's basketball teams and later donated to Caitlin's Smiles, a charity that donates stuffed animals to children with cancer.
"Seth will come and sit on the (York College) bench. He'll sit on the bench with the team for the whole game. During halftime he'll come out to center court with me and everyone throws teddy bears onto the court," Rhodes said.
Rhodes had brought the event to York from Hanover High School, where she first organized a teddy bear toss for the Hanover girls' basketball team when she was a freshman Hawkette back in 2008. That event has continued to be an annual tradition at Hanover since Rhodes left, with Hanover set to hold its teddy bear toss this weekend. In all, more than 5,000 teddy bears have been collected since 2008.
This will mark the second annual teddy bear toss at the college. Rhodes first organized last year's event as a freshman on the Spartans' women's basketball team. She opted to forego a basketball career following last season to instead focus on throwing for the York College track team -- a move that proved to be a good one when she set the new school indoor record in the shot put earlier last month.
A psychology major and youth development minor, Rhodes wants to one day work as a childhood specialist to counsel children with cancer and their families. She's dreamed of that career ever since staying at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for five days in the summer of 2008 after getting a non-cancerous tumor removed from her chest. The experience is also what gave her the idea of the teddy bear toss.
"It (the toss) has a direct connection of just helping kids with cancer," she said. "I don't do it to make it look good on my resume when I'm applying for jobs one day. I just do it because I like to do it."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.