The Howell boy’s tennis team was eager to take the courts on Saturday, September 15 to not only seek a win, but more importantly, to seek a cure for ALS. This year’s event ended up raising $6,500.
The Highlanders hosted their fourth annual Play for the Cure tennis tournament to honor Don Barnowski, who recently passed away after battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). His son, Nick Barnowski, was a former Howell tennis player.
ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This disease affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that controls voluntary muscle movement. Over time the disease leads to muscle weakening and the inability to move parts of the body.
Howell’s first Play for the Cure was originally for Breast Cancer Awareness. Howell tennis coach, Mark Oglesby pointed out that the first year didn’t raise much money, but it was more for the awareness.
Don Barnowski was diagnosed with ALS during Nick’s junior year. “We changed the event then from Breast Cancer to ALS because it’s a cause that touches our tennis family in a personal regard. Don will always be part of our tennis family,” Oglesby said.
The tournament was held at both Howell High School and Parker Middle School. Teams from Howell, Brighton, Hartland, Pinckney, Lakeland, Ann Arbor Skyline, Plymouth Christian, and Livonia Churchill all came out for the event.
The proceeds came from catering, raffles, racket string and sponsorships. At the end of the tournament all the proceeds went towards ALS research.
“We received $950 alone from the sponsors,” Oglesby said proudly. Over the last two years the tournament has raised $10,000.
Before the tournament started, Oglesby took a moment to reflect on the upcoming play. “No matter what comes out of today, I am proud of my team. Playing for the cure like ALS is an excellent opportunity for our players to do something for the greater good,” Olglesby said.
Moving between matches was Don Barnowski’s son Nick. Nick Barnowski, a 2012 Howell graduate, is now studying journalism as a freshman at Michigan State University. The Play for a Cure event is very important and touching for the Barnowski family.
Nick reflected on his last two challenging years of caring for his father and playing tennis for HHS. “I dropped the hockey stick and picked up the tennis racket, I never knew how important this sport would be to us,” he said.
All the Howell players were sporting their red headbands to support the fight against ALS. “I’m really proud of these kids,” Nick said at the tournament. “This is a great chance for them to give back to the community.”
The varsity tennis team stayed focused on the goal of the day: to raise money for the ALS foundation.
“The Play for a Cure tournament is a great experience. It’s a good way to get teams together to raise money for a good cause,” senior Austin Skippers said. “It’s not all about winning today; it’s about raising awareness for a serious cause.”
Nick shared that the ALS fundraiser and tournament really took off last year. During the homecoming pep assembly last year, Nick was asked to make a speech about ALS. “That was really…weird,” he chuckled. “It was really exciting to see the whole school getting involved and I hope it continues to grow at this rate.”
As the subject turned to his dad, Nick became a little teary eyed. Don Barnowski died at age 53 on July 2. “He was a warrior in every sense. He taught us to never give up on anything regardless of the outcome.”
Pinckney had 16 points, Brighton with 15. Howell and Livonia Churchill had 14 points apiece. Hartland ended up with 12 points and Lakeland with 10.
Barnowski summed up the day. “It’s an honor to dedicate a tournament for a cause that affects my family. Normally we are out here to get a win for our respective teams; instead it’s a chance to get a win against the cause.”
On Sunday, May 6 at 12:00 PM, the Michigan Chapter of the ALS Association is hosting a “Walk to Defeat ALS.” The walk will be held at the Johnson Center on the Cleary University Howell campus. It is a walk to raise money for research and to promote awareness about ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
According to the ALS Association website, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The brain slowly loses the ability to function the body. The disease causes loss of movement in the legs, arms, and eventually the heart, resulting in death. Currently there is no cure for this disease.
The ALS Association chose Howell as one of their walk sites due to the number of families who live with the disease in the area.
“We have so many people diagnosed in the area that it was hard to travel to other walks,” Ms. Susan Woolner, Executive Director for the ALS Association Michigan chapter, says. “We wanted to change our walk strategy to get walks closer to their home.”
For senior Nick Barnowski, this cause hits close to home. Having a father who currently has ALS compelled him to raise awareness about the walk. Barnowski is trying to get Howell High School students to come and support the cause, even though it is the day after prom. HHS Students can show up the day of the walk to register, register on the ALS Association’s website (alsa.org and search for the Howell walk), or register to be a volunteer on Facebook.
“The walk isn’t only about raising the money, it’s about educating people on the disease because it’s not as rare as some people think it is,” Barnowski says.
Awareness is a main goal for the walk. With the expectation of around 450 people showing up, community outreach is very important.
“It’s a disease that can be overwhelming for a single family. The support of the community at these walks helps families cope with what is ultimately going to come next. Our goal is to support both paths, for those who have the disease and the caregivers,” Woolner says.
“When the darkness comes, the stars shine,” Mr. Don Barnowski said to those who filled the Howell Opera House on Monday, October 10, 2011.
Mr. Barnowski was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gherig’s Disease, in July of 2010. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the spinal cord and the brain. On October 10, 2011 a fundraiser for Mr. Barnowski was held at Howell’s Opera House. An event that was expected to have 100 to 150 people attend ended up having over 200 people come to support Mr. Barnowski and his family.
Students, parents, and children alike came to the Opera House and enjoyed the food and the company. “I have known Nick for a long time, and I felt as a friend I should support Nick and his family,” senior Kyle Cascarelli stated. The amount of students who came to support the Barnowski family was very touching.
Faculty from Howell High School also came to show their support with the Superintendent Mr. Ron Wilson, Athletic Director Mr. Dan Hutcheson, and teacher and tennis coach Mr. Mark Oglesby in attendance. Mr. Oglesby spearheaded the Play for the Cure Tennis Tournament that raised money for ALS research. The past few years Mr. Hutcheson has gotten to know Nick Barnowski due to his previous role as sports editor on the Howell Main Four. “It’s a good cause,” Mr. Hutcheson stated about why he attended the fundraiser, “plus I have a personal connection with Nick.”
“It blows my mind [that so many people came]. I had no idea we had this many friends. It shows what kind of community we live in,” Mr. Barnowski stated.
Many different organizations were great examples of how a community can come together. Howell High School’s hockey teams, from freshman to varsity, spent the previous running a can drive for the Barnowski family. In the end they raised over $800, which is a tremendous feat. Mr. Barnowski’s previous colleagues from United Way of Southeast Michigan presented a check to the Barnowski family during the dinner, which was truly moving.
Not only did family friends of the Barnowski’s come in support, but the Detroit Red Wing’s left wing Mr. Justin Abdelkader and defenseman Mr. Niklas Kronwall also attended the benefit. “Its an honor to be able to help in any way we can, and to be able to show our support,” Mr. Kronwall stated. Both Mr. Kronwall and Mr. Abdelkader stayed for a couple hours signing autographs and spending time with Mr. Barnowski and his family. Mr. Mike LaFontaine Jr., who is the dealer principal of the LaFontaine Family Dealers, was generous enough to bring the players and help organize their arrival. “Its great to come here and be able to help out in any way we can. Also its great to represent the Red Wings.” Mr. Abdelkader stated.
Throughout the event there were raffles and silent auction items to help raise money for Mr. Barnowski, but the true highlight of the evening was the community. So many people from our area came to show their support and that was truly the highlight of the evening. As Ms. Maggie Barnowski stated, “It means more to me than anyone would ever know.”
On Monday, October 10, from 5:00-8:00 PM a fundraiser for a local family will be held at the Howell Opera House. The evening will include a dinner, beverages, and dessert, with proceeds to benefit the Don Barnowski family.
Tickets for adults are $25 and for children, $10. There will also be a silent auction with items such as tickets to Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings games, a fly-fishing trip, and signed Red Wings hockey sticks and photos. Also, there will be a meet and greet with some Detroit Red Wings: Justin Abdelkader, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, Niklas Kronwall, and team doctor Dr. Tony Colucci.
A year and a half ago, Don Barnowski was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the spinal cord and the brain. The raised funds will help pay for medical expenses. Also, the family hopes to purchase a patient lift to help transfer Mr. Barnowski from his bed to his wheelchair and vice versa. The family also hopes to purchase a handicap van.
Mr. Barnowski’s children, Nick and Emily, attend Howell High School. Nick, a senior, is the editor-in-chief of the Main Four publication, and a member of the varsity tennis team. Emily is a sophomore and on the girl’s golf team.
The Hartland tennis team ended up with 25 points to win Howell’s Play for the Cure tournament on Saturday, September 24. Howell finished in a tie for second place with 18 points, and Pinckney finished in fourth place with 16 points.
However, on a day where the rain stayed away and the sun was breaking through the clouds, this tournament meant much more than just who won and who lost.
Eight teams participated in the tournament which was held at both Howell High School’s and Parker Middle School’s tennis courts. In total, the tournament raised more than $4,000 dollars for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) according to Howell coach, Mark Oglesby.
“In comparison to last year, we raised far more than last year,” Mr. Oglesby says. “Our big goal was $10,000, but even though we didn’t reach that, we did far better than a year ago.”
There were numerous ways people could donate. At the tennis tournament, there were eight tin cans with each one having a different school logo on it. The cans were placed next to each other and spectators could put money into the can of the school they were rooting for.
Money was raised during Spirit Week at Howell High School. Red wristbands for ALS awareness were sold for $5, with the chance to also put a pie in the face of an administrator at the Homecoming Pep Rally. All high school principals participated. Also at the pep rally, a group of students ran up and down the bleachers for one minute with buckets in their hands, asking for people to put any loose change or money into the bucket.
What started three years ago, originally for breast cancer awareness, the tennis tournament has shifted to ALS awareness, after the disease impacted the team first hand. Senior Nick Barnowski’s father, Don, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease last year. Last year’s tournament raised over $3,000, in a very short amount of time, as the diagnosis was very close to when the tennis season began.
White tennis balls with red lettering, symbolic of ALS Awareness, were used for this tournament. Barnowski was grateful that people came to watch the tournament and donate towards a cure for ALS.
“All I can say is thank you. Not only is my family and I thankful, but so are the 30,000 other families in Michigan that is dealing with ALS. All the money goes to new technology and new treatments to try to stop this disease that has been around for over 125 years. Again, just thank you,” Barnowski says.
In the No. 1 doubles championship match, Barnowski and his doubles partner, senior Nick Grifka, lost in a nail biter 1-6, 6-2, 13-11 to Hartland, after cruising through the first two rounds.
“It was definitely was one of the tougher matches I have played in my four years of tennis at Howell,” Barnowski says. “Once we got to the tiebreaker, anything can happen, especially when we got two teams like us and the Hartland team that are so close each other. We tried our best though, and this was the best match me and Nick’s have ever played before,” he adds.
Also from Howell, Austin Skippers and Ryan Muliet lost in a third set tiebreaker at No. 2 doubles, and Tim Langford and Kenny Sell also lost in the same way at No. 5 doubles.
“It was a competitive tournament with a great cause, making for a great tournament,” Grifka, who has been Barnowski’s doubles partner all season long, says. “Even though we lost in a very close match, I’m still very happy about the whole thing because of what the cause was for and that’s what really matters.”
Oglesby’s message to the team was a bit different than usual that morning.
“I told the kids that today’s tournament is more than about tennis. This is about being good citizens and people. Winning and losing shouldn’t be on our minds. Playing for this cure is what we are playing for,” Oglesby says.
Even though this is Barnowski’s last year on the Howell tennis team, he has confidence the tournament will continue on. “I hope Oglesby continues this tournament in the future years, after I’m done playing tennis for Howell. Whatever they decide to play for, I’m sure it will be for a great cause,” Barnowski says.
In all, Play for the Cure meant a little more than a usual tennis tournament. It gave each of the teams something much more than winning. It gave the teams inspiration for a cure.
On Saturday, September 24, the Howell tennis team did an amazing thing for the 30,000 people who are currently suffering from ALS in the United States. They hosted the Play for the Cure tournament, a fundraiser for the Michigan ALS Association.
ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There is no known cause or cure and the degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to death of its victims.
Howell Tennis coach Mark Oglesby came up with the idea that the annual Play for the Cure tournament should promote ALS when the father of one of his players, discovered he had gotten the disease. The ALS patient is Mr. Don Barnowski whose son, Nick, plays number one doubles for the tennis team and is a junior at Howell High School.
“The (Play for the Cure) tournament was played for raising breast cancer awareness last year. Once I learned about Don Barnowski’s condition, I asked him if it was okay if we could sponsor ALS for this year’s tournament. He agreed and everyone on the team did a great job supporting it,” coach Ogesbly said.
Hartland, Howell, Saginaw Heritage and Wayne were the four teams that participated in the tourney, with Hartland taking the title and Howell earning the runner-up honor. The tournament ended up being very successful accumulating almost $3,100 for the ALS Association (ALSA), surpassing the original goal of $2,000.
Mr. Barnowski was very thankful for the team’s support.
“The tournament not only helped by raising money towards finding a cure, but by raising awareness about the disease. It is very humbling and heartwarming that Coach Oglesby and the team chose to fight for a cause that impacts my family directly,” Mr. Barnowski said.
Mr. Barnowski acted as the liaison between the team and the ALSA, helping develop the web page to collect donations on behalf of each school as well as facilitating with on-site work the day of the tournament.
He also had the special job of handing out the medals during the award ceremony, earning the pleasure of giving the gold to his son and teammate, junior Connor Kurtz, for winning the number one double’s flight.
“Nick and Connor carried some extra pressure into this tournament, and I was proud that they were able to step up. Handing that gold to Nick is something that I’ll never forget. In a way, it symbolizes the special bond that we have,” Mr. Barnowski exclaimed.
Don Barnowski has played a huge role in his son’s life.
“He’s always been there for me in everything- hockey, tennis, and school. He is definitely my biggest fan,” Nick Barnowski said. The Barnowskis have been involved in athletics their entire lives. He and his children have both played hockey, baseball, tennis, and golf.
“Sports keep us together, busy and in shape and have given us many great friends. Sports prepare you for life by teaching about fun, competition, respect, teamwork, discipline, rules, practice, pressure, and taking care of yourself,” Mr. Barnowski said.
When Mr. Barnowski first learned that he might have ALS, it was extremely tough. However, the months he waited leading up to the diagnosis were even more difficult since he knew the disease could have been lurking. Since there is no specific test for ALS, Mr. Barnowski was diagnosed when every other possible disease was eliminated.
Mr. Barnowski’s outlook on life has altered only slightly after learning he contracted ALS.
“I’ve never taken life for granted. It (ALS) hasn’t changed my goals as a father, a husband, a son, brother and friend. However, it reinforces the fact that the path to your goals is not a straight line; it isn’t scripted. You need to adapt to the detours and curve balls that life throws at you — just like you constantly make adjustments while competing in sports — and embrace each day as an opportunity to do something positive,” Mr. Barnowski said. His faith and family have given him the strength to keep fighting the disease.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes that reason is a mystery, but I don’t believe that my mission from this is to just quietly lie down. A terminal disease can be dispiriting, but the reality is that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to anyone,” Mr. Barnowski explained.
Don Barnowski wants to continue making the most out of the remainder of his life.
“I’ve been given a unique opportunity to make a positive difference, and I want to make the most of that opportunity. And someday soon, a cure will be found. When that happens, everyone associated with Play for the Cure can look back and feel proud they played a part,” Mr. Barnowski stated.