As Susie Ecker remembers her father, she recalls the lack of interest he initially had in tennis.
“He knew nothing about tennis, didn’t think he wanted to know anything about tennis, but he’s one of those that never missed anything my kids did — whatever my kids were doing, he was there,” said Ecker, a Centerville native who is the wife of Centerville High School tennis coach Randy Ecker.
Eventually, she said, her father developed an interest for the sport. A passion.
“My kids were just so involved in so many things, my dad loved to watch them,” she said. “When my oldest started playing, (he said) ‘All right, I’ve got to figure out this game,’ so then he did. And even when my kids graduated and they went on and played college, he had retired then, so he was following them around. … Until the year he passed away, he still came to every match we had here.”
Ecker lost her father to lung cancer two years ago. Her mother was a breast cancer survivor, and Randy Ecker’s late father suffered from kidney cancer.
On Wednesday, area rivals Centerville and Richmond came together to “Smash Cancer,” an event designed to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
Peyton Young, Rei Tsuyuki and Kaitlin Kramer won singles matches and Cami Jones and Kaitlyn Harrison won at No. 1 doubles as Richmond improved to 4-1 in duals with a 4-1 victory.
Centerville’s victory came from Shelby Good and Lizzy Walther’s 6-2, 6-4 victory at No. 2 doubles. The Bulldogs are also 4-1.
Harrison and Jones, for a second straight match, overcame an early 5-2 deficit against Centerville’s Merissa Ross and Jordan VanWinkle, winning 7-5, 6-3 after defeating the Bulldog duo in last Saturday’s Richmond Invitational.
“I think since we came back on Saturday, I think we had it in our heads that we could come back again,” Jones said.
T-shirts of different colors were sold with each color representing a different type of cancer. Harrison’s pink shirt represented a family member who had dealt with breast cancer. Jones’ orange shirt represented a family member who dealt with leukemia.
“Obviously it’s always important to get a win, but I think it was more of, all of our team wanted to come out and win to honor the people that we were honoring with our shirts,” Harrison said.
On this windy day, it was about much more than a tennis match.
“When you’re doing something like this, not only is it really good to honor and pay memorial to those people … also, just to show kids what it takes to do a benefit of this kind to try to get the community involved,” Randy Ecker said.
Susie Ecker said the idea came from Delta coach Tim Cleland, who conducted a similar event while a student at Delta High School dealt with cancer.
“When we presented it to the girls and Randy asked, ‘Anybody that’s been affected by somebody that’s close to you, a family member,’ every single one of them — we have 18 girls — every single one of them stands up,” Susie Ecker said. “It’s terrible, everybody knows somebody. It’s very rare that you run across somebody that doesn’t know somebody that’s been affected by it.”
T-shirts are still for sale with proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society. Randy Ecker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Centerville’s Athletic Boosters also donated concessions proceeds to the organization.
“It’s for a great cause,” Richmond coach Randy Hollingsworth said. “Anytime you deal with cancer, it’s a tough situation, and the girls have come out with the shirts on and done a great job.”