It was Oct. 26 at David W. Hansbarger Stadium and the Swanton Bulldogs were set to play their final game of the football season, at home, against the Archbold Blue Streaks. Spectators filled the bleachers in anticipation for the match-up while each team prepared itself for the battle ahead.
However, the usual flurry of purple-and-white and blue-and-gold among the players, audience and banners alike was also accompanied by a flourish of pink, representing a different battle beyond the football field: breast cancer, to correlate with Breast Awareness Month. At the center of this pink-out game at Hansbarger Stadium is jersey #56 for the Bulldogs, Xavier Williams.
He decided to make the final game of his senior year at Swanton High School one that would resonate for the betterment of his community. He was motivated to give back to victims of breast cancer from his own personal experiences with his mother Maronda Williams, a 13-year survivor of the disease.
“A couple of [my] classmates’ parents just got diagnosed, and I remembered going through that,” he said.
With help from William’s Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) group and Maronda, he designed t-shirts and socks with breast cancer awareness-themed designs to sell to his community to wear in the season finale, in effort to make the game a pink-out.
“Also, to jazz it up, we sold smoothies during [school] lunches in the month of October,” he said.
The money earned from the fundraising would go towards cancer organizations. Once collected, the total proceeds stunned Williams.
“What I expected was $1,000 or $1,200, but it ended up at $2,000. The results were amazing! I was shocked on how much we had.”
In deciding where to make his donations, Williams wanted to stress his community, the same place where his mother fought the disease, and where his classmates’ family were just beginning the battle. As a result, The Victory Center, a cancer support organization based in Toledo, was a suitable choice.
“The Victory Center is where my mom went when she went though her cancer. I saw they were a nonprofit organization and knew I [could] give back. Same with Baskets of Care.”
Baskets of Care, William’s other choice for donation, is a second organization in Toledo that has helped William’s mother and several other breast cancer victims.
“I saw what [Baskets of Care] was doing because my mom had help. [They] help people to get through beating cancer.”
For both organizations, Williams’ donation has created a strong impact.
“Xavier’s contribution means the world to The Victory Center,” Dianne Barndt, executive director of the organization, said. “He proves that young people do care about their community and helping others. He should serve as an example of what a big difference one person can make.”
Gail Cooper, who founded Baskets of Care following her own battle with breast cancer in 2010, expressed her gratitude for the donation and remembered her experience with William’s mother when she fought the disease.
“I, along with my Board of Directors, are very proud that he chose us as a recipient of his fundraiser. I have known his mother and family for a very long time. I worked with his mother at the time of her breast cancer diagnosis and had watched her journey along with the family,” she said.
In addition, Williams’ actions have impacted his student body at Swanton High School, according to principal Jason Longbrake.
“Xavier led the charge in making all of this happen and was instrumental in getting other students, as well as staff and community members involved in this fabulous cause,” he said. “Other students here at Swanton High School see what Xavier is doing and can see all the good things that come from helping others and being a leader. As a principal, this character trait makes me the most proud.”
Williams’ contribution will make both a present and future impact to several individuals, aiding in their treatment and providing comfort during their fight with the disease, with the help of The Victory Center and Baskets of Care. As the battle to end cancer continues, Williams has words of support to those affected by the disease.
“Just keep on fighting and keep your head up high. You’re going to have your good and bad days, but you always have your family and friends to help you by your side. Just have hope and believe your going to get through this.”