For Sarah Ogle, being a part of her first anti-cancer fundraiser has brought back a mix of memories. There’s the good memories she has of spending time with her mother as a young child. And there’s the painful memory of losing her mother, Karen Hays-Ogle, to breast cancer when Ogle was just 7 years old.
Ogle is now a freshman on the Delta tennis team, and she will be part of the Smash Cancer event for the first time. In its second year, Smash Cancer is held in conjunction with the annual Delta-Yorktown match to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
Players wear T-shirts of various colors at the match to raise awareness for different types of cancer. And T-shirts are sold by both teams to members of the community to help raise funds. Other fundraising efforts are held on match day. This year’s match is at 5 p.m. April 30 at Yorktown.
A longtime volleyball player, Ogle joined the tennis team for the first time this season. She enjoys being part of a new sport and learning new skills. But it’s also meant being part of Smash Cancer and joining a cancer fundraiser for the first time.
Ogle has an older sister who also goes to Delta, so many of her teammates on the tennis team were already aware she had lost her mother to cancer. She’s found her teammates to be very supportive as they set out together to raise funds to fight the disease.
“It means so much,” Ogle said. “They’re the sweetest things ever. And, whenever, if you need help with anything, they’ll help you out. It’s really nice.”
The connection with Smash Cancer is also felt at Yorktown. When Delta coach Tim Cleland called Yorktown coach Jini Morgan to pitch the idea last year, Morgan had lost a close relative to liver cancer the same day.
When Morgan asked her players to pick a shirt color for this year’s event, few had any trouble choosing, as most felt a personal connection to someone who has battled a specific type of cancer. Morgan and her team even participated in a Relay for Life walk last summer at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
“Smash Cancer last year for our team and for me was probably one of the best events, one of the best coaching moments we’ve had,” Morgan said. “I think it was a good chance to open our girls’ eyes to taking the sport to a different level and not just make it about playing Delta.”
The Smash Cancer event leads Ogle to revisit a difficult chapter in her life. She came home after school one day to find a priest there. Various family members had gathered around her mother. She told them she loved them, then said her goodbyes before she died.
Ogle also has positive memories from the years she spent with her mother. She doesn’t point to any major events, she mainly just remembers going on errands with her mother, going out to lunch and sharing laughs over simple things.
When people see Ogle now, they can see some resemblance between her and her mother. People notice the similarity in her hazel eyes, and they also notice they share the same dark hair. But the main similarity people notice is that Karen Hays-Ogle and Sarah Ogle share the same smile. Since Ogle got her braces taken off last summer, the resemblance has become even more pronounced.
When Ogle hears mention of those similarities, she takes it as a compliment.
“Whenever I see people, they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, you look so much like your mom.’ They just always tell me she was the sweetest girl, and they just loved her and everything about her,” Ogle said. “She was my role model and I just want to be exactly like her.”
While Smash Cancer leads Ogle to think about a wide range of memories, she’s become very supportive of its mission since she’s gotten a chance to be a part of it.
“This is really neat,” she said. “As I said, this is my first time. I had no idea, I haven’t heard of this, ever. And I think this is a really cool idea that everyone should be doing, to support everyone who has lost a family member.”
Ogle’s desire for the event to expand is becoming a reality. Last year, Smash Cancer was limited to the two Delaware County rivals and their match, and it raised about $1,100. Cleland and Morgan then took the idea to the state coaches convention, and other schools in the state have decided to add Smash Cancer matches to their schedules this year.
Delta senior Ashley Loffer went to the convention to speak in favor of the event. She remembers seeing a lot of tired coaches, fatigued after a long day at the convention. But as the presentation about Smash Cancer continued, she noticed the coaches becoming more attentive.
They jumped up in their seats and began looking around the room, taking notice of those who came to support the cause.
Delta and Yorktown are the only two Delaware County schools in the Hoosier Heritage Conference, and they’ve long been fierce rivals. Loffer doesn’t mince words when she talks of her immense desire to beat Yorktown on the court. But she’s glad to join with the Tigers to support a good cause.
“We want to go out there and smack them as hard as we can,” Loffer said. “But last year, it wasn’t that we weren’t wanting to smack them as hard, but it was just completely different than what we’ve ever done. Because the opening ceremony, all the girls that had one specific color of T-shirt would stand together, and we’d be presented together for that specific type of cancer.
“So we were literally standing next to our opponents for a good 45 minutes before the match actually started. So once it got out there, the intensity of playing our rivalry was still out there. But it was just different.”