By ED HEDES
When former Northwestern Lehigh and Lehigh University football standout Brett Snyder was diagnosed with ALS over seven years ago, he received overflowing support from friends and family when he started the Tackle ALS Inc. Foundation.
His main goal was to be able to raise money to help find a cure for the disease that he has and increase community awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and to support research aimed at early diagnosis and detection.
Three years later, the group got together with the Bo Tkach Memorial, which is an organization with a mission to create awareness for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other mental health issues.
This past weekend, the 6th annual Alumni Flag Football Event, with its slogan "raising awareness one community at a time" took place at Northern Lehigh High School Stadium to help raise money for both groups and was a huge success again.
With 130 players beginning play at noon, it all finished up four hours later with Palmerton and Lehighton meeting in the championship game. The Blue Bombers scored in the final minute and held on for a 14-13 victory to come away with the title.
This was the first year the games were played at Northern Lehigh. In the past, they were held at Northwestern Lehigh.
"I'm very pleased with the way the event played out this year," said Curt Schillinger, who has helped oversee the games since their inception when it was just two teams, the Northwestern Gold vs. Northwestern Black. "We decided as joint organizations to focus more on the football aspect of it. We started to incorporate different things in with the game and put more focus on the players.
"We had a decent turnout today (Saturday) as far as fans go but we're focusing now on the players and getting as many games in and the camaraderie has been excellent."
With the amount of players registered, it made 11 teams this year from the school districts of Northwestern Lehigh, Northern Lehigh, Palmerton, Lehighton, Catasauqua and Bangor.
"Our ultimate goal at Tackle ALS is to raise enough money to find a cure," Schillinger said. "Is it a long shot? Sure, but it is still our ultimate goal. In fact all of our money right now is going to the
Tackle ALS Hope Foundation which is a group of doctors that run a clinic where they try to produce drugs that they can take to pharmaceutical companies to try and get on the market.
"To date, we have donated over $100,000 to the Tackle ALS Foundation to date."
Schillinger admitted he never envisioned the flag football event ever getting as big as it is now when it first started.
"People seem to really look forward to this. It's the end of their summer and gives them something to do."
Tackle ALS has several fundraisers during the year, such as Wine Tasting at Vyncrest and a Go-Kart Race at Lehigh Valley Grand Prix.
The Bo Tkach Memorial's major fund raising is its golf tournament in May at Blue Ridge Country Club that includes a Sports Memorabilia Auction that is second to none.
"Everything was very organized and went well," said Jim Tkach, who handles the Bo Tkach Memorial end of it. "The people from Tackle ALS that originally put this thing together have a nice framework and all we did was plug ourselves in and set it up the same way at Northern Lehigh. We didn't change anything and it fit perfect.
"Greg Derr, Director of Building and Grounds, the maintenance guys and Superintendent Mike Michaels had this place ready to go. It was trimmed, it was neat. It was like it was a Friday night in the fall."
Tkach couldn't compliment the Tackle ALS people enough.
"They just have it down to a science," he said. "They know what it's all about from getting the pledges right down to getting players to participate."
Without a doubt, this Alumni Flag Football Event is around to stay.
And it gets bigger every year.
More teams, more pledges and helping people in need. That's what it's all about.