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Courage Bowl: more than a game

by Paul Cifonelli - Staff Writer
Tue, Sep 25th 2018 09:00 pm
The annual Courage Bowl between The College at Brockport Golden Eagles and St. John Fisher Cardinals gives children who have been diagnosed with cancer the opportunity to be a part of the team and participate in the game.
The annual Courage Bowl between The College at Brockport Golden Eagles and St. John Fisher Cardinals gives children who have been diagnosed with cancer the opportunity to be a part of the team and participate in the game.
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On Saturday Sept. 29, children at Camp Good Days will finish up a week they will never forget.

Camp Good Days is a not-for-profit organization that helps people who have been impacted by cancer. However, for the Courage Bowl, it is the children with pediatric cancer that will take center stage.

For most of the children involved, it means a few days away from hospitals, doctors and medication. The young boys and girls involved will be treated to a great football game. More importantly, they will get to interact with the players and coaches from each team.

Both St. John Fisher and The College at Brockport sent football teams to Camp Good Days on the first Wednesday of camp. The teams each spent about five hours at the camp with the kids. 

Going to see the children at their camp left a huge impact on everyone involved. More importantly, the children get to spend a day with collegiate athletes who they watch and idolize. Additionally, the Courage Bowl festivities will continue a few days before the game.

On Thursday, Sept. 27 the teams will be having a banquet for the children and their families. St. John Fisher and Brockport will have its football teams and respective staffs join the guests for a big, united dinner. Friday Sept. 28 provides an opportunity for the children to attend the pregame practices at the schools.

Saturday Sept. 29, is the big day for the campers. There will be honorary coaches and cheerleaders for each team. The coaches will accompany the captains out to the coin flip at midfield and remain on the sidelines for the whole game. The cheerleaders will learn a few cheers and perform with the colleges’ cheerleaders throughout the contest.

While the children will be given a weekend with their role models, the players and coaches are also impacted by the events that take place. 

For first year players and coaches, the events can be very eye-opening and humbling. The same can be true for the veterans on the team. Despite being humbled by the experience players, such as senior safety Jake O’Connell, have fun with the experience as well.

“I always have a good time hanging out with those kids and it’s good for them to come to the game,” said O’Connell.

As for the coaches and staff, the event  makes an especially strong influence because most of them have children of their own. As fathers, seeing children with pediatric cancer gives them even more reason to give their children that extra hug and kiss before bed.

“It’s humbling,” Brockport head coach, Jason Mangone said. “It’s eye-opening when you’re dealing with young people that are going through a lot of obstacles.”

All the lead-up events draw a lot of emotion out of everyone involved. The children get to spend time doing something that they may never get a chance to do again, while other campers return year after year. Mangone also mentioned that the team invites children who have been a part of the Courage Bowl to other games and practices.

“Our door is always open. We have had a few young people that have come back to multiple games and come to our banquets,” said Mangone. “It’s an open-door policy with them whenever and wherever they want to come back.” 

While all of the extracurricular activities of the weekend will take center stage, a football game still has to be played. St. John Fisher heads into the game 0—2 with both losses coming at the hands of other top 25 opponents. No. 15, Washington & Jefferson, defeated the Cardinals 37-12 in their first game. After a bye week, St. John Fisher lost to No. 25, Ithaca, 21-14. St. John Fisher is playing its first road game of the year when they visit Bob Boozer Field on Saturday, Sept. 29 at 6 p.m.