ROXBURY _ Joseph Polise has survived cancer twice and his grandaughter, Sydney Clevenger, feels he will win again.
Polise, battling the disease for a third time, was in the stands when the Roxbury High School volleyball team held its Kill Cancer fundraiser on Thursday, Oct. 9.
Clevenger said she "felt good" playing for such a worthy cause. She was pleased Polise, whom she calls "Pop Pop," was there to watch the Gaels defeat Chatham, 25-15, 26-24.
"He comes to most of my matches," said Clevenger, a senior opposite. "I really like that he's here. He's been a big supporter."
Cancer, too, has touched the life of Clevenger's classmate and teammate, Christen Kilgore, whose uncle, Greg, succumbed to stomach cancer last March.
Kilgore thought of her uncle, who lived in Western Pennsylvania, in the pre-match circle. He's on her mind often but was even moreso because of the evening's events.
"I think he was watching over me," Kilgore said. "I could feel it. I thought of Uncle Greg, Coach (Amanda) Nagy and those who have survived."
She was very emotional when discussing her uncle and very proud of the way the community came together, noting it was "the best turnout ever."
All three levels of the program participated, raising money for the Amanda Rydell Nagy Scholarship Fund and the American Cancer Society. Rydell Nagy held one of the first events in Morris County to raise funds for cancer charities. She called it Dig Pink.
A large jar, placed on the table just inside the gym entrance, teemed with currency. Donors received pink leis. The walls bore pink volleyballs that had messages on them in memory of cancer victims and survivors. Pink bracelets were sold.
Nagy's name was on the back of all of the players' long-sleeve warmup shirts. The majority of the current players didn't know Nagy, who passed away on Aug. 11, 2011 at the age of 32. An accounting teacher, she also coached girls basketball.
A moment of silence was held before the match.
"It was amazing," Gaels head coach Beth Grasso said. "What a testament to Amanda and the players and their families. Amanda certainly left a lasting imprint on everyone. She was a pioneer with her Dig Pink event and meant so much to so many people. This honored Amanda and all of those battling cancer right now."
Anna Amster, coach of Chatham, which participated for the second consecutive year, was impressed once again by Roxbury's efforts.
"It was awesome," Amster said. "We want to do something like this, too. We've seen how it brings teams, families and communities together for one purpose."
Roxbury senior middle hitter Natalie Binczewski enjoyed taking part. Binczewski was thrilled with the turnout.
"It seemed like everyone was here," Binczewski said. "We made sure everyone knew. A lot of it was word of mouth, social media. I'll always remember this because it's my senior year."
Clevenger was glad the Gaels could continue something that Nagy started.
"I didn't know Coach Nagy personally but I know she was well-liked and started the cancer fundraiser," Clevenger said. "It's good to carry on."
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