Hobart football team walks for teammate with lymphoma
HOBART — When the Hobart football players participated in Sunday’s Footin’ a Cure for Cancer Walk, they were helping fight a battle with greater significance than the games they participate in each Friday night. The Brickies walked as a tribute to their teammate Joey Sparks, who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.
Sparks visited the doctor expecting to be treated for a sore throat, only to find out his diagnosis.
“He’s been a trooper all the way through it,” Hobart coach Ryan Turley said. “We were hoping that he was going to be here at the walk today. He’s not going to be released until (Sunday) afternoon, but he’s going to be coming back home and I know that the team, family and community are really excited to have him back.”
Sunday marked the 15th annual walk against cancer hosted by Phi Beta Psi. This year’s event honored cancer survivor Monica Wiley, who is a Hobart City Councilwoman. In the past, the walk has raised over $200,000 for cancer research.
For Hobart sophomore Luke Budzielek, the walk was of way of both supporting Sparks and honoring his grandmother, aunt and uncle, all of whom died of cancer.
“It’s just something important to me,” Budzielek said. “It means a lot because Joey is one of my best friends. He’s always there; he puts in all kinds of hard work. He’s always got his fist up. He’s always thinking about the team.”
Hobart’s captains and several other players have visited Sparks in the hospital to show their support. Seeing what he is going through has helped the team put the importance of winning and losing into perspective.
“It shows you that it’s really just a game,” Turley said. “Oftentimes, we get caught up in the wins and losses, but life is a lot more important than athletics.”
The Brickies have participated in the walk for three consecutive years, but this was the first time that they did so since having a teammate diagnosed with cancer.
“It just shows how the community can come together,” quarterback Andrew Barras said. “Joey is a hard worker. He’s a great kid, he’s always positive no matter what and he’s just a good team player.”