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Grand Island: Viking softball dedicates memorial tree

by jmaloni
Fri, May 11th 2012 05:55 pm
Varsity softball teams from Grand Island, left, and Lewiston-Porter meet at a tree dedicated in memory of Rosanna Russell prior to Wednesday's Strike Out Cancer game in Veterans Park. The tree honors Russell, who lost her battle with cancer three years ago. (photo by Larry Austin)
Varsity softball teams from Grand Island, left, and Lewiston-Porter meet at a tree dedicated in memory of Rosanna Russell prior to Wednesday's Strike Out Cancer game in Veterans Park. The tree honors Russell, who lost her battle with cancer three years ago. (photo by Larry Austin)
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GIHS joins with Lew-Port to Strike Out Cancer

by Larry Austin

Before doing battle on the ball diamond, two opposing softball teams joined in a shared effort to honor the memory of one who lost her battle with cancer.

Grand Island hosted Lewiston-Porter Wednesday at Veterans Park in the second annual Strike Out Cancer game. Teams dressed in pink, symbolic of breast cancer awareness, and held a pregame ceremony to dedicate a memorial tree in honor of Islander Rosanna Russell, who died of cancer three years ago.

Jacqueline Morris, a special education teacher and varsity softball coach, said cancer "really hits home with Grand Island." Russell's daughter, Rosalie, is a junior on the Vikings softball team. The tree-planting is "in honor of her mother for what she's done for the sport and for the community and with Relay For Life."

The first Strike Out Cancer game took place last year when GI visited Lewiston-Porter.

"We love Rosalie very much, and we wanted to do something for her and her family that would help the community in the future. We would love to continue this tradition with Lew-Port as well," Morris said.

Nina Calarco, Lew-Port varsity coach, said the concept for the game began last year when her teaching colleague Maureen Castiglione was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"One of the girls on the team last year thought it would be a good idea to play a game kind of in her honor. It just so happened to be against Grand Island," Calarco said. "When I approached Jackie, she was all about it, and her girls really came through."

The Vikings' gesture inspired Castiglione, Calarco said.

"Maureen was really touched that they took a personal interest in extending themselves to her, and throughout her battle they sent get-well cards," Calarco said. "And she said that she had many occasions that when she had a rough day she thought of that game, when she had 30 girls, 15 of whom she didn't even know, who came up to her and hugged her after the game."

Calarco reports that today Castiglione is doing very well and is in remission.

Lew-Port will host the third annual Strike Out Cancer game next year when the Vikings visit the Creek Road campus diamond.

"We're hoping that this relationship continues," Morris said.

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