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.”
Charity is something that almost everyone wants or tries to dabble in. This year, for Howell High School students, they have taken on that challenge and have far exceeded the normal standards. HHS students have been involved with numerous charities throughout the year and have raised a total of roughly 50,000 dollars.
In first place, with raising around 15,000 dollars, is the student council in partnership with LESA (Livingston Educational Service Agency). They hosted the annual Stuff the Bus fundraiser. This year, there were buses parked at both Howell and Fowlerville Walmart stores. This was by far a community effort but the student council was ready and willing to lend a hand. Stuff the Bus takes place around Christmas time and their mission is to fill the bus full of Christmas presents such as toys and clothes. All the proceeds then go to children and families in the community who can’t afford such gifts. Members helped fill the buses and encouraged shoppers to contribute to a good cause.
“This gave students a great opportunity to get out in the community and do something really good for people in need. Our students did a wonderful job,” said Ms. Dana Ritenour, the teacher who helped students organize the event.
Student council has been in charge of many charities, but by far the most innovative one is the annual Senior Survivor competition. In one week alone they raised a total of 13,270 dollars. Every year the senior student council runs the event, and they decide what charity will receive the money. This year they chose something close in our community, the Arc of Livingston. This organization exists to help families and individuals with developmental disabilities by providing support, information and advocacy. Its goal is to help build a community that includes and values people with disabilities. Each member on the survivor crew had to raise money to stay in the competition. Students went around the school and practically begged people for money, along with selling their team t-shirts for seven dollars apiece. Some gave various food items in return for donations and some serenaded students with their guitar playing and singing. If contestants were lucky they received checks from people, like family members or from the church they belong to.
Third place this year goes to the Interact Club and their fight for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Like most others, the way Interact Club raised money was by selling shirts and finding students who were willing to shave their heads for charity. Those participants asked for donations as well. This foundation is a national organization dedicated to finding funds to help end childhood cancers. As a result, they raise awareness, provide support for children and families, and use other money towards research to help find an end.
“This was our first year doing this and we far exceeded our expectations. We hoped to raise 2,000 dollars but we more than tripled it with 7,333 dollars,” said Ms. Karen Lessnau, the Interact Club advisor.
The Howell Boys Tennis Team has yet raised more money this year for a very important cause, the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association. Senior Nick Barnowski on the team has a father who is currently diagnosed with ALS. To raise awareness and support, the team sold red wristbands and people could buy paper shoes that would be later placed on a wall at school. The team tried to get teachers involved while also placing posters around classrooms. Barnowski spoke at the homecoming pep assembly to get the message across on a subject that is more prevalent than one would think. The tennis team had a tournament and encouraged people to come, watch, and make donations. For their efforts, they raised a total of 5,500 dollars.
“It was great to see the whole school involved for a cause that hits so close to home. The tennis team and the ALS Association were impressed by the generosity of high school students,” Barnowski says.
One event this year that definitely took people by surprise was the culinary arts wild game dinner. They featured delicious dishes like pheasant, goose, bear meat balls, elk beef tips, Alaskan salmon, and much more. The dinner was supported by the community and people could buy tickets to this dinner for 30 dollars per person, or 50 dollars per couple. With raising a total of 2,600 dollars, 1,300 going toward Gleaners Food Bank and the other 1,300 going to The Connection Youth Services, a local family agency. They have decided to make this an annual event because of its great success.
“It was really cool seeing people ban together for a cause and come together and give all their time and effort,” says Brain Leboeuf, culinary arts teacher.
This year students went above and beyond, coming up with new, inventive, and entertaining ways to raise the money. Every student involved played an important role. All charities were very grateful for the enormous effort of the student body.
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.
“What’s up, Nick?”
That’s how Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall greeted me in the concourse of Joe Louis Arena a couple of weeks ago. To say this was cool would be an understatement.
We talked back and forth, mostly about hockey, but about other things too, like how’s life back in Sweden, and if he was going to see his girlfriend after the game.
That leads to pictures, which end up on Facebook and then school the next day.
I often get asked what it’s like “hanging out” with some of the Red Wings. It’s no big deal.
Talking to these guys is no different than talking to anyone else you usually talk to. Hockey players, maybe more than any other athletes, are just like everyone else. They’re some of the most laid back people in the world, and none exhibit this more than Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader.
Abdelkader, who visited the Howell Opera House in October for a fundraiser to benefit my family, is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. It’d be easy for him to just say “hi” and leave the rink after a game, but Abdelkader stayed and talked with me for around 15 minutes. Not only did he remember who I was, but he asked how my family was doing and showed interest in helping out in our community.
Goalie Jimmy Howard is the same way. I met him for the first time after their game against Winnipeg on December 10. Howard was awesome, taking time to take a couple of pictures and talk about the game and his family life. An All-Star this year, Howard — to a complete stranger, like me, nonetheless — discussed candidly about his new baby and how he has to move to the basement sometimes to actually get sleep.
It’s literally like talking to one of your best friends. They’re so open to talking to fans that it didn’t matter that I am only 18 and still in high school.
Before meeting most of them, I had this vision of them not being very talkative and in a hurry.
I was wrong. Kronwall and Abdelkader both wanted to listen to me talk about my life, my hockey career, and were interested in seeing the pictures of my backyard rink. It’s almost like they make you forget that they’re professional athletes for a minute and make you feel like you’re talking to a friend.
This certainly has a lot to do with each player’s upbringing — this I learned after meeting Abdelkader’s dad, Joe. It was easy to tell he was raised right. This, in combination with the way the Red Wings organization handles things so professionally, with lessons and leadership from players like Steve Yzerman and Lidstrom trickling down to the younger guys on the team.
So really, what is it like?
They’re just like you and me. Except, you know, really, really, really good at hockey.
Howell varsity tennis impressively capped off their season on Friday, October 7. Statistically, it was one of their best in decades. The Highlanders ended the year with a solid 7-3 record and a third place finish in the extremely competitive KLAA West Division.
Number two doubles player, junior Austin Schippers, was the team leader in points this season while sophomore Mason Wenzel had the role of the number one singles spot.
The team consisted of many seniors who provided excellent leadership. Nick Barnowski, Connor Kurtz, Henry Palmer, and Tim Langford were all four-year players who really stepped up their games to help the team.
Number two doubles player, Connor Kurtz, finished his career as the Howell record holder in points, with 202.
“The season was tough, but overall we had a good season because we reached several milestones. I really worked hard to reach that record,” Kurtz said.
One of the team’s most notable victories this season was beating Brighton. It was the first time in nearly two decades that the Highlanders were able to defeat the Bulldogs.
However, Howell’s greatest achievement this season was not what they did on the tennis court.
“We were able to win a few tournaments, but I feel that our greatest accomplishment this season was our tournament fundraising ALS. We raised nearly $6,000 for the ALS Association,” coach Mark Oglesby said.
Going into their regional, the Highlanders knew they were going to face excellent competition. The Highlanders put together their best effort, but it was not good enough to extend their season. The three teams that made it out of Howell’s tough region ended up placing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at the state meet.
Even though they were unable to make states, coach Oglesby was pleased with their effort.
“The kids worked hard and were well prepared for their matches. Everyone really got along and did a great job for us this season.”
Despite the departure of several upperclassmen this season, the future of Howell tennis still looks bright.
“We’re graduating a bunch of seniors next year, but we have several talented players returning. People are going to have to step up to the table. It will be a challenge and we will have to work hard,” coach Oglesby said.
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.
I suppose I hadn’t started out on the greatest of terms with Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
Although I doubt he remembered that I was the one he asked to watch his laptop while he tied his daughter’s skates before a game at the Novi ice arena, it was now my turn to confront the Stanley Cup champion coach again.
This time in a press conference.
The journalist part of me started out fine. “Coach, I noticed you guys were working on the power play a lot during practice. I was just wondering what things you were doing to try and get that going again?”
Then, the fan in me came out.
“I know it’s been kind of slumping the past couple of games.”
Babcock’s face turned serious. “Well, I don’t think that’s true,” he replied, which was enough to make me sit down and give the microphone up right away. Lesson learned: choose your words wisely.
It was one of the many lessons I learned at Red Wings High School Journalist Day on March 8.
The event, put on by Christy Hammond and the Red Wings’ public relations staff, was designed to give aspiring high school journalists a glimpse of what the media environment is like for a professional sports team. A group of around 70 students made the trek to Joe Louis Arena to take part in question and answer segments and watch the team practice.
After registration, which included an official arena press pass and a packet full of Red Wings stats and information, Hammond introduced the first panel, featuring Jennifer Hammond of FOX 2, Kevin Allen of USA Today, Ken Kal of 97.1 The Ticket, and Bill Roose of DetroitRedWings.com.
The group provided insight into the media world, with a slant toward the Detroit sports scene.
“It’s a new experience each and every day, and it’s a job you can really express yourself in, be creative, and have fun while doing it,” Kal, radio voice of the Red Wings, said while talking about his job. “A lot of people think that the radio guys, the TV guys, the writers, just show up an hour before the game and broadcast the game and go home, but that’s not the case at all.”
The four member panel shared their advice on what it takes to break into the business. Each panelist worked in a different media field, which made their opinions especially valuable.
“You won’t survive in this business unless you’re willing to compete,” Allen said. He is a national hockey writer and is the current president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. “You want to be better than your competition. You got to find a way to be different so that people want to read you.”
Roose, who feels that “more and more folks are going to leave the traditional news room to work for teams,” also shared some advice for the group of students.
“You have to be accurate. You have to spell player names right. You probably should get two sources to confirm your information before you post it. Speed is a necessity, but accuracy should be before speed.”
Kal agreed with that assessment, saying, “Make sure that when you finally get that story out, that you have that right information.”
Working for FOX 2, Hammond’s job changes daily, which is why her minors in English and journalism are so important to her success. Passion and determination led her from taking a job for free just to get a talent tape out to covering sports for one of Detroit’s major TV stations.
“If you have the passion, it will fuel you all throughout your career,” she said. “Be willing to do whatever it takes to get there, even if you have to take a step back or sideways to get to the ultimate goal.”
While each of them took a different path to reach their goals, the principles needed to achieve their dreams echo the atmosphere that the winning tradition in Detroit created: hard work, determination, and passion.
Nobody understands that more than Coach Babcock and General Manager Ken Holland, who were the next panelists after a tour of the Joe Louis press box and the opportunity to watch practice.
Though I only asked one question, the two blended their answers with sharp attention to detail regarding on-ice events and how experiences the team goes through can be applied to life.
Babcock talked about how he tried to “open doors” for himself at a young age, which led to many chances to succeed.
“I wanted to be successful, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but if you keep opening doors, you open opportunities for yourself,” he said.
A successful hockey coach (the only coach to win an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship gold medal, and a Stanley Cup), he would make a very good life coach as well.
“As long as your doubts are momentary, that leads to a speed bump to get you going a little bit faster and working a little harder,” he said. “People are dying to help you if you have the courage to ask.”
Star forward Henrik Zetterberg, big-hitting defenseman Niklas Kronwall, and 400-game winner Chris Osgood were the players to take part in a question and answer session. The players talked about winning the Stanley Cup, the team’s biggest rivals, and pranks pulled on other players during their time with the team, to much appreciation.
“It’s not the game that’s stressful, it’s the leading up to the game that is,” Osgood said. “Thinking about what could happen are some of the things you have to get out of your head.”
Hammond, the community relations coordinator, and Rick Bowness, the public relations coordinator, also answered questions from the group of high schoolers.
The experience and lessons learned throughout the day cannot be measured. Rarely is an opportunity available to learn more about the profession you’ve expressed serious interest in, especially in a setting like the one the Red Wings created. It was more than a taste of the environment I hope to work in one day.
Hopefully I’ll be asking better questions, too.