Boone Central’s team color is red.
Minden’s is purple.
But when the teams get together for basketball Monday night at Minden, the prevailing color in the gymnasium will be orange — the color of leukemia awareness. That entire night will serve as a show of support for two Nebraska families whose sons have been battling childhood cancer since they were diagnosed the same week in February.
Seven-year-old Alex Johnson of Minden and 3-year-old Cooper DeWitt of Albion became fast friends when they met at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. Alex is the son of Scott and Jamie Johnson and Cooper is the son of Justin and Jenni DeWitt.
“The boys were diagnosed three days apart,” Jenni DeWitt said. “They became instant friends and there really is a special bond between our families.”
Support for both families moved into the world of sports last March at the girls state basketball tournament when the two schools reached the tourney in Lincoln. Justin DeWitt is an assistant coach at Boone Central, and the players on last year’s team began wearing orange shoelaces to show their support for Cooper.
Fans from both schools also bought tournament T-shirts bearing an orange ribbon, and that support will reach a new level Monday night at the girls-boys varsity doubleheader. More than 900 orange T-shirts have been sold, and all money raised that night will be donated to CureSearch — a national non-profit organization that funds and supports research of childhood cancer.
Jenni DeWitt said the response to Monday night’s games has been overwhelming from Minden and from Albion, Newman Grove and Petersburg — towns that feed students into Boone Central High School. This is the first year that Newman Grove is in a co-op with Boone Central.
“Even if people won’t be able to make it to the game, they’ve bought T-shirts and donated money,” she said. “To know that all of those people are behind you is just an awesome feeling.”
Minden Athletic Director Phil Hoyt said his school is eager to host Monday night’s event.
“We’ve been working with the two families and it’s obviously a tremendous cause,” he said. “It’s nice to see communities get together like this and work toward a common goal.”
Hoyt added that he still expects spirited games on the court.
“I think the players are fired up to play that night,” he said. “It should be a great atmosphere and it’s for a great cause.”
The varsity girls game starts at 6 p.m. and the boys varsity game begins at 7:45.
A sloppy joe feed will be held in the cafeteria from 5 to 8 p.m. and a 3-point contest will be held at halftime to raise even more funds.
Alex and Cooper, who have been undergoing chemotherapy treatment since February, also will be there Monday night — if they feel well enough to attend.
“People have touched our hearts in so many ways,” Jenni DeWitt said. “I know Monday will be a special night for all of us.”
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