In the case of Pope High School, it’s being used as a way to raise money for childhood cancer research.
Before the Greyhounds’ game with Cambridge tonight, the school will hold a ceremony in honor of Matt Hobby, a former Pope football player who died in 2006 — not long after graduation — of Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of childhood cancer that impacts bones or soft tissue.
Since Hobby’s death, the Pope community has used the Greyhounds’ football team as a way to remember and raise funds for the Rally Foundation through the annual “4Quarters4Research” event.
“This is our seventh year at Pope,” said Peggy Hatcher, the event’s co-chairperson and a Hobby family friend. “It was started to honor Matt, one of our football players that came down with Ewing’s sarcoma — bone cancer that started when he was a sophomore. He just fought through it, and he went to Seattle and moved to different places, trying different treatments.
“He wanted money raised to fund research to cure cancer. Not much goes into childhood cancer, as most goes to breast, leukemia and prostate cancer. That’s where the big pharmacy companies make their money, but childhood cancer is a whole different story.”
Pope is raising money by going into the community with its junior cheerleading and football programs, raising an estimated $4,600 according to Pope athletic director Josh Matthews. Additionally, the school has been selling T-shirts and wristbands. The shirts are blue and black camouflage with the slogan “Battling Cancer Is Our Hobby” on the front, and Hobby’s No. 70 jersey number on the back.
As of Thursday, 1,300 shirts had been sold at $10 apiece, and the foundation is having a hard time keeping up with the number of orders, Hatcher said. The wristbands feature the phrase “Stand Tough,” an idea that came from two of his best friends and teammates — Patrick Hatcher and Kevin Price.
“I went over to (Price’s) house,” Patrick Hatcher said. “Him and I lived a couple of doors down (from Hobby). We got together one night, and asked, ‘How are we going to raise money for that family?’ We took a play off ‘Livestrong.’ He said ‘stand,’ and I said ‘tough.’ We threw it on wristbands and shirts, and it started with the four quarters thing. It’s blown up from there.”
Pope will also auction off shirts signed by members of the Houston Texans, including former Pope quarterback T.J. Yates, star receiver Andre Johnson and starting quarterback Matt Schaub.
On top of working to raise money for the Hobby family, the “Stand Tough” slogan is tattooed onto many of his former friends and teammates.
Patrick Hatcher, however, has his own tattoo to commemorate his friend.
“I went with something else,” he said. “Basically, when you read it, it’s upside-down. Anyone that looks at me sees my initials. When I look down, I see (Hobby’s) initials.”
In all, the Rally Foundation’s goal was to raise $85,000 in the time from when the foundation was started, prior to Hobby’s death, to tonight’s game.
According to Matthews, the total after last year’s game was $74,000 and an estimated $10,000 has been raised this year, bringing the $85,000 goal within reach.
During the game, buckets will pass through the stadium asking members of the crowd for donations. Spectators will be asked to donate a quarter — or whatever change they can spare — hence the “4Quarters4Research” name.
There will also be a ceremony to remember Hobby that will include his family, friends, members of the foundation and senior lineman Cody Amon.
Amon was picked by his coaches and teammates to wear Hobby’s No. 70 this year. Since Hobby’s death, his number has been rotated on an annual basis to the player who best represents the values he cherished.
“I think the added pressure for me doesn’t come from playing football because it’s so much bigger than that,” Amon said. “Matt was an all-around class act. The way he excelled in the classroom and on the field — there’s not one person you can find that has anything bad to say about Matt.
“The added pressure for me comes from time to time when I have to think back and ask, ‘What could I have done better? What could I have done better to prepare for this day? What am I going to do to strive to continue to be better?’
“Matt wasn’t just a player who lost his life. He was a player that went through tragedy, but fought and had the will to truly live and truly leave behind something amazing. The added pressure for me is to figure out what best to do to honor Matt’s name for when I get to meet his parents and look at them.”
During his two-year battle with cancer, Hobby was able to show a spirit that his older brother, Luke, described as one without fear.
Even in the face of the disease, and seeing his body weight drop from 220 pounds to nearly 170 when he was in Seattle going through treatment, Matt showed his toughness in a story that Luke recollected Thursday.
Luke, Matt and their younger brother, Daniel, attempted to climb up nearby Mount Rainier in order to “reach the clouds.”
“The whole time we are getting there, the mountain is enormous,” Luke said. “It’s almost as big as Mount St. Helens, a pretty powerful thing to see. As we got close and closer, we were going to hit trails and hike it. Matt said he was feeling up to it. We started climbing Mt. Rainier, and started at the state park at the bottom. We went up a mile on the trails in the snow.
“Matt was just so tired. He stopped halfway, got sick and threw up from (the effects of) chemo. But he kept going. That really stood out to me, his strength. Our goal was to reach the clouds. We wanted to go as high as where the cloud level was. What we thought would be an hour hike ended up being a five-hour hike. We went up probably 2 or 3 miles into these trails in the mountain. Every time, he kept pushing on. He’d have to take a break, but he kept going and going.
“We finally made it to the clouds. That was the moment where we looked at him, me and my brother. I thought, at that moment in my life, that I could never, no matter how hard I tried, be the man that he was.”