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Community minded team wears teal jerseys for annual soccer match

By Dave Goldman Photojournalist: John Thompson - 11:02 AM May 8, 2017

Teal is for real at Service High School.

For a fifth straight year, the Service High School girls’ soccer program played “The Teal Game,” on a bright and sunny Friday afternoon. As the Cougars took to the pitch with South High School, money raised would go to help promote awareness of gynecological cancers while helping support women already in the battle.

Mary Rita Ely, a teacher at Service and an ovarian cancer survivor, helped start the support group, “Let Every Woman Know.”

“That’s our whole motto to be ‘down there aware.’ Different than breast cancer, that’s had lots of time, and research, and funding, and exposure the last 50, 60, 70 years,” she said. “It’s now OK to talk about breasts and breast cancer. We’re still at the place a lot of people aren’t comfortable talking about their ovaries or their cervix.”

The idea for the game came about when head coach Mark Cascolan decided to honor his late-friend Liz Hooe. A long time physical education teacher at College Gate Elementary, Hooe lost her battle with ovarian cancer at 49. Even though she’s gone, he’s never far from his mentor.

“The one saying that she always told me before coaching a game would be ‘don’t forget to play, don’t forget to play.’ That stuck with me for years. It’s like, it’s a game,” said Cascolan.

Meantime, the ladies on his team haven’t forgotten either. They’re now helping educate the public and are learning as they go.

“It’s more common in women that are older, and so I definitely encouraged my mom and grandma to get checked out because I didn’t even know how big of a deal it was until this game,” said senior Brianna Linnell.

Junior Lauren Hepler agrees: “It’s really important to us because it’s raising awareness and encouraging women to get checked early for GYN cancers.”

Hooe’s daughter, Morgan, recently acknowledged the community backing of the game at the University of Alaska Anchorage sports banquet. A former All-American volleyball player for the Seawolves, Hooe was named the Bill MacKay athlete of the year that night.

“Thank you for all the support, especially my dad and mom. I wish more than anything my mom could be here tonight, but she’s definitely my guardian angel upstairs,” said Morgan.

In all, about $1,500 were raised.

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