Royals Think Pink

S. Royalton Takes Full-Court Press Vs. Breast Cancer

South Royalton — Jeff Moreno appears to have the power to make the cause of fighting cancer go viral.

The assistant principal, athletic director and varsity boys basketball coach at the South Royalton School, Moreno has made battling breast cancer a personal concern since his wife, Kim, was diagnosed with it last year. Kim Moreno is nearing the end of her latest treatments and is doing well; her husband’s efforts, on the other hand, are anything but done.

Today’s Pink Day is the latest. Beginning at noon and ending well after sundown, South Royalton will host a tailgate party, ceremonies and four basketball games, all with the goal of raising awareness of breast cancer and adding to a growing donation that will eventually be turned over to the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Lebanon’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

“This one is taking off a little bit, which is good,” Moreno said yesterday. “It all builds off our previous editions and has gotten to a place where awareness is pretty high all around.”

This marks the third time Moreno and South Royalton have hosted some sort of breast cancer awareness event. It will be the biggest yet.

Tailgating starts at noon, while the games begin at 2 p.m., with South Royalton’s middle school girls basketball team playing Chelsea. Following a video ceremony, the SoRo boys varsity takes on Chelsea at 3:30, while the girls varsity hosts Rochester at 5 p.m.

Moreno added a fourth game yesterday: The Rochester-Twinfield varsity boys hoop game scheduled for last night at Vermont Technical College was moved to South Royalton tonight as a result of yesterday’s snowstorm.

Five other schools — Whitcomb, Rivendell, Blue Mountain, Concord (Vt.) and Randolph — have also joined the charity effort through the sale of T-shirts Moreno had printed for Pink Day. Even with today’s quadrupleheader yet to start, Moreno said he expects a donation of at least $6,000 to the cancer center, about three times the amount of money South Royalton raised during a similar event last winter.

“I like to think it’s more than a fad, more than something you see on TV,” Moreno said. “Anytime we talk about it at captains’ council or with the teams, we all have someone that we know that has lost the fight or is fighting or won the fight. It’s personal.”

For Moreno, it certainly is.

Kim Moreno, a special educator for the Orange-Windsor Supervisory Union, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in November 2011 and began chemotherapy shortly before the following Christmas. She finished chemo last March, had surgery in June, started radiation in September and is in the last stages of infusion therapy with the hope of finally receiving a clean bill of health.

“She finishes those in a couple of weeks,” Moreno said of his wife’s infusion treatments. “That’s a big milestone. The constant trips to Dartmouth-Hitchcock will be over.”

The efforts to give back won’t.

Moreno gained a greater appreciation for what the cancer center does by accompanying his wife to her treatments. It led to last year’s first basketball-themed fundraiser, which resulted in a $2,000 donation.

“The amount of people affected by this and the incredible resource in our back yard, it struck me — not to go through this first-hand, but to have been there watching my wife go through it — how incredible the people are at Norris Cotton,” Moreno said. “So much of this is through volunteer efforts and donations, just to make people comfortable, feel better about themselves. Free wigs and scarves for women, food, massages, reiki: It’s a difficult time in a woman’s life, and they do so much to make you feel good.”

Today’s festivities have taken on their own life.

Once he got his plans in order, Moreno sent out an email to contacts at his fellow Central Vermont League members — as well as Randolph Union High, where former South Royalton basketball coach Jamie Kinnarney is now AD — and invited them to join in the cause. Most of them have.

Moreno had special pink T-shirts designed and printed for the occasion. Chelsea jumped at the offer, buying 200 shirts to sell around town. Rivendell also has gotten into the cause, Moreno said; they’ll be doing their own fundraiser in the near future as well.

“(Chelsea and South Royalton) have sold nearly 700 T-shirts, and for schools of our population, that’s a lot,” Moreno said. “To see that kind of reaction and that kind of support and to know that both schools have been so willing to go forward with an event like this. …

“I’ve had to hardly do anything. The AD at Chelsea, Parrish Eiskamp, and Mike McCullough, the boys basketball coach, are fully behind this. … Being that two schools that are typically rivals have come together on something like this is really nice. That’s inspirational.”

It leads to memorable moments. Moreno told the story yesterday of South Royalton’s girls basketball team’s return from a recent game at Blue Mountain and stopping at the White River Junction McDonald’s to encounter Concord’s girls on their trip home from a contest at Rochester.

Many of the girls were already in their pink T-shirts.

“We all have women in our lives, whether they’re affected by this or not,” Moreno said. “It makes you think how a perfectly healthy woman, making the right decisions all her life, can end up with something that can threaten to kill her. Even big, tough, strong guys, it will resonate with them.

“If all we have to do to eliminate that threat is put on a pink T-shirt and play basketball,” Moreno added, “it’s a no-brainer.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.