Leanna Harris ‘18: As the Romeo community prepares for the ninth annual Watchdog week, Romeo bands together to support all of those affected by cancer. Whether it be someone who has won the fight, is currently fighting, or who has lost the battle to cancer.

Originating in 2009, a football game with the goal to raise money and spread awareness for cancer was organized between Romeo and Fraser high school’s football programs.  Over the years, other sports teams joined in on the fundraising effort providing about $40,000 each year through t-shirt sales and fundraising.

Romeo was turned onto the Watchdog idea by a school on the west side of the state. Coach Anderson presented the idea to his fellow coaches and Romeo decided to start our own tradition.

“Lowell High School ran a Pink Arrow game,” Couch explained. “They ran it one year, Coach Anderson sent us an email: check out what this school did. The next year we said why don’t we? Lowell was first, Romeo second, and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

Coach Couch continued to explain how many Michigan communities now sponsor their own tribute games.

“It’s probably more uncommon for a school not to have some sort of tribute game, and that’s great to see,” Couch said.

Since the first Watchdog game, contributors to the fundraising has grown from the football team to teams, clubs, staff, parents, and a community.

“The first year was football and since then we have tried to incorporate every sport and group. The community has continued to try and do it more and more and I think now, a lot of people just know what watchdog is,” Jason Couch, co-head coach of the Romeo Varsity Football team, said.

Since the first game, the organization of the week has become much less overwhelming and much more smooth. Couch reflects on his personal experience the first year.

“The first year, probably took the most time to prepare for,” Couch said. “Fraser high school was extremely involved, they were our opponent the first year and they were in the program with us. That made it extra special, but it was an overwhelming amount of work to make sure that all players and coaches bios were in there and I think that it was successful because we now have the other team’s involvement.”

Although the tradition of our athletic facilities painting the cancer ribbon in the center of our field is no longer possible;  the tradition of taking a community picture on the field after the game, will not to go down with the grass.

“The only thing I could say, maybe we do just a horseshoe kind of thing around the R in the middle of the field,” Couch said.

Looking forward to her first Watchdog game, our new athletic trainer, Kayla Phillips elaborates on what she expects this Friday.

“I’ve heard its insane,” Phillips said. “I’ve heard that theres so many people that come to the game, very excited for that. Coming into a place where the community is already fully invested is really exciting for me. I’m excited to be a part of the team, and get to be down on the field with you guys [football players], and feel the excitement of doing something for the community.”

Each year, athletes are asked to honor those affected by cancer by wearing their names on the back of their jerseys. Whether it be a family member or a friend, anyone that has been touched by or has been affected by cancer is given the opportunity to be represented. The games can often be emotional for players, for each person has had a different experience with cancer.

Varsity soccer player, Eric Wadell, and varsity volleyball dance team member, Brianna Zanke, state who they have chosen to play for this year.

“I am playing for my Mom’s coworker, Tracy Holman. She passed away a few years ago to lung cancer,” Eric Wadell ‘18, varsity soccer player, said.

“This year, I’m dancing for my Grandpa. He passed away from lung cancer and I can’t wait to dance in his honor,” Brianna Zanke ‘20, varsity dance team dancer, said.

Brooke Celusnak, varsity volleyball player, explains why watchdog is so important to her.

“Watchdog is a time to reflect on those who have been lost, those who are fighting, and those who have survived in the past, present, and future. It’s a time to take a stand against cancer,” Brooke Celusnak ‘18, varsity volleyball player, said.

Students, teachers, and the community continue to be blown away by the amount of people that come to support all that watchdog stands for. The stands fill, year after year, with the different people in the same shirts, supporting the same cause.

“Watchdog is a surreal event through Romeo. It’s absolutely incredible to see the whole community coming together to support one, great cause,” Eric Fraeyman ‘19, varsity football tight end, said.

Make sure that you pick up your 2017-18 Watchdog shirt if you haven’t already. They’re available in the lobby during lunches or in the athletic office for $15 dollars. Your shirt grants you free admission into the games and all proceeds benefit cancer research. The boys soccer team kicked off the series of Watchdog games Wednesday, September 13, falling to Grosse Pointe North, 3-1. The girls varsity volleyball game was Thursday, September 14, falling to the Anchor Bay Tars in the first three sets. The varsity football game will take place this evening, Friday, September 15 at 7 at Barnabo Field. Make sure you continue to come out this weekend and support your Dogs.

Update:

Megan Ferguson ‘19: Throughout Watchdog week, the Romeo community successfully raised thousands of dollars to help find a cure for cancer.  From selling t-shirts, bracelets, and raffle tickets, the community was able to raise about $35,000 and unite approximately 4,200 people together on Friday night, according to Gregory Brynaert, athletic director at Romeo High School.

“I found it very moving to see how willing people were to donate to the cause and how many people came out to support at the game,” Melissa Gaffke ‘19 said. “It shows how much our community comes together to do our best and get the best results.”

Throughout the course of the evening, Barnabo was filled with people wearing identical shirts to fight against cancer, something that has touched almost everyone’s lives in one way or another. The football team sported white jerseys with purple lettering in dedication to their loved ones who have been impacted. The players, cheerleaders, dance team, and band gave amazing performances on the new turf. Ultimately, the game ended in a win for Romeo on and off the field. They took home the victory, defeating Stevenson High School 37-7 and had a great impact on the fundraising effort.

“I played in honor of my Aunt Gab,” Austin Trost ‘19 said. “Seeing the community come together was amazing. If you could have been on the field and turned to see everyone in the stands watching us play for this good cause, you would get chills too.”

This game wasn’t just about football, it was about a community coming together once again to raise money to help combat cancer.

 

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