Even in its early years as a Northwestern vs. Northwestern game, the Tackle ALS Flag Football event was a big deal in New Tripoli. Its reach has grown each year, making its motto, "Raising awareness one community at a time," ring very true.

It started with the Northwestern community. After a few years neighboring Northern Lehigh got on board.

Last year, for the first time, teams from Palmerton, Catasauqua and Lehighton joined in.

This year, event organizers Curt Schillinger and Jim Tkach have verbal commitments from graduates of Jim Thorpe, Bangor, Tamaqua and Pius X. There is hope that larger districts such as Northampton and Parkland will soon join in.

"Part of it is that we can be of more help," said Tkach, talking about how the event has grown recently. "The contributions and number of alumni that have jumped on board are increasing.

"Curt Schillinger and Jim Diefenderfer have laid the groundwork. They've been in this from the beginning when it was just a Northwestern Lehigh event to raide money for Brett Snyder's fight against ALS. We (the Northern Lehigh group) had to learn how we could fit in."

The main attractions are the flag football games between former high school players. It gives former high school football players young and old a chance to rekindle old rivalries and relationships that were formed on the gridirons when they were teenagers.

The purpose of the event is to raise awareness and funds for two charities dear to the hearts of the communities that made this event what it is today.

Tackle ALS was founded by Brett Snyder, a Northwestern Lehigh High School and Lehigh University alum. Snyder has been battling ALS for years and started the foundation to raise awareness and help fund research about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

The event also raises funds for the Bo Tkach Memorial, an organization with a mission to create awareness for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other mental health issues.

The Sixth Annual Alumni Flag Football event will include flag football games in a tournament format. There are also many other attractions for fans and participants, such as a punt, pass and kick competition for kids of all ages and other activities.

For the first time the event will be held at Northern Lehigh High School in Slatington. It's scheduled for August 7 with a rain date of Aug. 8. Gates open at noon. There will be six 50-yard fields.

"The Northern Lehigh School District welcomed this with open arms," said Tkach. "It's a homecoming for both communities. The e-mails keep coming in from players and students all wanting to know how they can help."

Players from all graduating classes are welcome.

Sponsorships are still available and teams are still being accepted. For more information on sponsorships or player registration or to donate to either or both charities, see one of the following web sites: www.tackleals.org, www.nwlehighsd.org, www.botkach.com or www.nlsd.org.