On the field, Crystal Lake South absorbed a tough 59-0 defeat to Cary-Grove on Friday night that erased its faint playoff hopes.
However, the night was not a complete loss for the Gators, who gave 7-year-old Abby Greene an experience she will not forget.
Greene, a Crystal Lake girl stricken with brain cancer, was invited to be an honorary cheerleader for the game. As South’s players took the field, each one laid a pink carnation at Abby’s feet, and some gave her a fist bump.
South assistant coach Ryan Felz, a cousin of Abby’s mother Rachel Greene, set up the night with Gators cheerleading coach Kari Grady. Abby did the pregame coin flip and the officials let her keep the coin.
“After the game, I talked about being able to keep things in perspective,” said Gators coach Chuck Ahsmann, whose team fell to 2-5. “It’s hard to lose a football game, but we still get to play football.”
Adam and Rachel Greene only found out in mid-September about their older daughter’s dire condition. Abby suffered a severe headache Sept. 13. Less than a week later, after an MRI and brain surgery, the Greenes learned she has Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas, an aggressive brain tumor that so far has a zero percent survival rate.
Rachel Greene said the special night was a thrill for Abby, who is undergoing 30 days of radiation at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago. They are staying at Ronald McDonald House while Abby gets the treatments.
A fundraising web page, AnotherDayWithAbby.com, has been set up for people to help Abby and the family.
“So far, she’s been a real trooper,” Rachel said. “She was smiling ear to ear [Friday]. She was a little too tired to cheer with [the cheerleaders], but she watched them the whole night and had a really good time.”
Abby shared many of the 60-plus carnations with her Girl Scout troop members and other friends who attended the game to support her. Felz gathered the flowers in a 5-gallon bucket and the Greenes took about 25 of them home.
A recent video of the Foothill (California) High School football team laying flowers at the feet of a cheerleader who has leukemia went viral. Felz had seen that video and other similar ones and figured South could do something like that for Abby.
“She loved it, to get the whole community behind her,” Felz said. “The whole point was to try and get some exposure to her web page and give her a life experience that she’ll never forget.”
The website leads to a Facebook page with a picture of Abby and her 4-year-old sister Emma.
The South football parents and cheerleaders each put together gift baskets for Abby. The officiating crew of Jim Perkins, Steve Walliser, Chris Terpstra, Bill Sherlock and John Anderson donated its game checks to the fundraising page.
“She was spoiled,” Felz said. “It was awesome.”