There is St. Charles East.
There is St. Charles North.
And there is Kick-A-Thon, which allows each side to temporarily shelve its territorial holdings, wrap an arm around a neighbor's shoulder and, from goal-line to goal-line, benefit the common good.
Good as in $678,019.05 that since 1994 has been donated to charity -- the Fox Valley Chapter of the American Cancer Society and, more recently, also the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center.
"There are no words, really, to describe what it means to the community of St. Charles," said Kari Batka, a 23-year St. Charles East counselor and former Drill Team coach at St. Charles High School and St. Charles East. Her squads won 16 state titles to clinch her induction into the Illinois Drill Team Association Hall of Fame in 2003; Batka also entered the St. Charles East Hall of Fame as a Jodie Harrison Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in 2010.
The 20th anniversary Kick-A-Thon will be held at approximately 6:30 p.m. Friday before the varsity Crosstown Classic football game between St. Charles North and the host Saints. A blowout tailgate for the community kickers and their guests commences at 5 p.m. under a huge tent on the north end of the field. Being a landmark year, some 150 Drill Team graduates and family members are expected to return for an alumni weekend.
Twenty years ago, Batka and four other women sat around a kitchen table to brainstorm ideas for a Drill Team fundraiser. They pulled off the initial Kick-A-Thon but after raising $5,000 figured, well, the Drill Team didn't need that much dough. Where to turn for a fitting source for the proceeds?
Buck Drach, at the time Saints football coach whose late wife Rose was then battling cancer, suggested the American Cancer Society. The rest is a history of support.
"The fact that a million (dollars) is in sight after 20 years, I think that wasn't ever really imagined," Batka said.
"There's just something really special about this event and I can't quite put a finger on it, but I think it's all the right things happening for the right reasons. People really care about this," she said.
"Her vision is what we still celebrate today," said St. Charles East Kick-A-Thon co-chair Rosanne Grenfell, but Batka would say the credit goes to the Drachs.
Kick-A-Thon, which now requires essentially year-round planning and execution by a devoted volunteer staff, has evolved from a smallish event to a festive spectacle Batka described "like Jennifer Aniston's wedding."
It seems to break records annually. The 2011 version drew a record haul of $80,202.31 and a then-record 144 kickers. Last year the event drew a record 150 kickers and nearly reached the donation record, at $80,040.24.
Through Tuesday evening a new record of 169 kickers had signed up for Friday. With donations accepted through December, the goal this year is to reach $100,000. The final amount will be announced Jan. 18 at the boys basketball game between the two schools, also at St. Charles East.
Jamie Beaulieu, a prospective nursing student and a senior on the St. Charles North Drill Team, doesn't let her spirit wane once she enlists new kickers, solicits donations and delivers her 100 kicks. She and other teammates volunteer several times a year at the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center.
"It's just a great experience to get to see the faces of the people we're helping provide for with Kick-A-Thon," she said.
Elisabeth Grenfell, daughter of co-chair Rosanne Grenfell and a junior on the St. Charles East Drill Team, admitted those 100 kicks get "pretty tiring by the end." And she's a pro at it.
But Drill Team member or weekend warrior, skill and endurance are not judged. It's the thought that counts, and at least for a little while St. Charles North and St. Charles East are on the same page.
"East and North, it's the only thing that does that," Elisabeth Grenfell said.
"Normally it's a huge rivalry," said Jamie Beaulieu, "but when you're kicking or revealing (the final donation) you can tell it's one community. It's not like North against East. It's St. Charles."
It's encouraging to hear Batavia football coach Dennis Piron say that the student cheering section known as the Dog Pound has opened its membership to freshmen and sophomores. He credited girls basketball players Erin Bayram and Liza Fruendt and baseball player Colby Green with spearheading the effort and increasing numbers; Piron said this year's Dog Pound T-shirt orders were about 1,500, the most ever.
"It's a nice group of kids," Piron said. "The players on our team are really proud of all of them. They're really good students and kids in the building."
Now for a brief word about Kendall Stephens
In an email conversation with Kay Stephens, mother of the St. Charles East graduate who is now a 6-foot-5 freshman guard with Purdue's men's basketball team, she said Kendall's right shoulder is "completely healthy" after the December tear that knocked him out of his senior season.
Aside from rolling an ankle in practice last week he's had an exhaustive but good run thus far, gaining 14 pounds of muscle since the summer to weigh in at 194 pounds.
Best of all, Kay Stephens said: "He absolutely loves it!"
A new low
Monday at Cantigny's Hillside course in Wheaton, St. Charles North's girls golf team set a program record with a score of 156, setting the record by 2 strokes.
Led by medalist Jessica Grill's career-low 37 on the par-36 course, the North Stars placed four golfers with scores of 40 or lower: Carly Hudon at 39 and freshmen Kate Lillie and Gianna Furrie each at 40.
We received a couple releases over the summer that just did not get in.
One was about Kaneland's baseball team. For the second straight year the Knights drew acknowledgment with an Illinois High School Association Team Academic Award for a cumulative grade-point average above 3.0. Kaneland's boys had a combined 3.27.
On June 26, Marmion and Northern Illinois graduate Bryce Emory sunk a 45-foot putt on the penultimate hole of the 94th Chicago District Golf Association Amateur Championship, giving him the win at Edgewood Valley Country Club in LaGrange. Emory started the tourney tied for third through stroke play, won three match play rounds to reach the final, and edged Winnetka's Blake Johnson, 2 & 1.
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