Elizabeth Hartman, a standout basketball player at Holy Spirit High School, seemed poised for further success in early 2007, when she accepted the position of head coach for the Egg Harbor Township basketball team. But soon after, her cervical cancer, which she thought she had beaten three years before, returned with a vengeance.
Hartman died Oct. 6, 2007, at the start of basketball season. But while Hartman is gone from the Cape Atlantic League courts, she's far from forgotten.
On Feb. 1, the Absegami High School hosted its fourth annual Coaches vs. Cancer: Shoot for a Cure event in Hartman's memory at the Lady Braves' matchup with Egg Harbor Township.
Elaine Hartman, Elizabeth's mother, cheered the visitors from the Egg Harbor Township bleachers.
"I think it's wonderful that they dedicate it to Beth's memory," said Hartman, who lives in Absecon. "They do this every year, and every year it gets bigger and there's more contributions. It's really great."
The tradition began four years ago when Lady Braves coach Meghan Tracey, who was close with Hartman, asked the team's Booster Club to put something together in Hartman's honor for Coaches vs. Cancer, a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches that raises funds for the fight against the disease.
That first year, the girls wore socks and shoelaces dyed pink, the color of breast cancer awareness. The following season, they wore socks and shoelaces dyed teal, which represents cervical cancer.
They added a fundraising component for the second year, selling T-shirts, which raised about $800 for the American Cancer Society. The boosters embraced the event largely as a way to get the kids involved in a cause, said Marcy Adams, Booster Club president.
"We just kind of escalated it because we wanted the kids to know how to give back to other people, and it just became a big thing. We kind of ran with it," said Adams, whose daughter Jenna is a senior.
The following year they added a raffle component and baked cookies, brownies and other treats to be sold at the game. This year, they did the same, also expanding the raffle and adding a half-time 3-point shooting contest for fans.
Egg Harbor Township High School also contributed to event, holding raffles and selling T-shirts of its own.
Half of the funds raised will go to the American Cancer Society, and the other half will be used to help pay for a shooting machine Absegami purchased at the beginning of the season. A plaque will be placed on the shooting machine in Hartman's honor.
This year, the event raised $1,086, and an anonymous donor, who is a friend of the Hartman family, has pledged to match the amount raised up to $1,000 for a total of $2,086.
The donation - and the event - are big gestures that Hartman hopes will go far in saving lives.
"Hopefully, they'll be able to find a cure, so that we don't lose somebody at 29 years of age," Hartman said. "It's an ongoing fight that needs to be funded all the time, and there's so many people that are affected by it."
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