Bulldogs, Tigers rally for a cause
The two communities will always be rivals on the athletic fields. But when it comes to rallying around each other's causes, Northwestern and Northern Lehigh make one solid team.
For the past several years both communities have come together each summer to support the Tackle ALS/Bo Tkach Memorial Flag Football event.
With that event unfortunately falling by the wayside, people that were a part of it in the past wanted to keep its momentum going.
They decided the annual Northwestern vs. Northern Lehigh football game is the perfect venue to continue the mission of the flag football event.
That mission was to assist both organizations in their efforts to raise funds and awareness about ALS and mental illness.
"They had the flag football event that last couple years," said Northern Lehigh head coach Joe Tout. "I had a chance to attend it last year. I was really impressed with it, how the two communities came together. We hate to see it end. Why not just incorporate it into the football game. It was both schools saying 'this is a special event. Lets keep it going somehow.'"
This week during morning announcements, students at both schools will learn about Tackle ALS and the disease that it is helping to fight. They will also learn about the Under the Helmet Foundation, which helps to battle and raise awareness about depression and other mental health disorders.
Under the Helmet was founded after Bo Tkach took his own life. He was former standout Northern Lehigh football player and the son of Jim Tkach, the former Bulldog football coach.
Bo went on from Northern Lehigh to play college football. He accomplished a lot while struggling with depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
At a press conference Monday to announce this week's event, Jim recalled things his son did for friends and acquaintances. He would drop everything to go help a friend with a flat tire. He would befriend classmates who seemed lonely. He would help other students with their homework. He would help and stick up for teammates who might not have been as gifted athletically.
Holding a fund raiser at a Northwestern vs. Northern Lehigh football game is the perfect way to honor Bo.
"Anybody who knew Bo knew that this is what he was all about," Jim Tkach said at Monday's press conference.
Jim Tkach also spoke about how honored he is to work with the Tackle ALS organization and the Northwestern community.
Tackle ALS was started in 2007 by former Northwestern High School and Lehigh University football player Brett Snyder, who was diagnosed with ALS.
Snyder holds all of Northwestern's significant offensive and defensive football records. But when his friends and former teammates talk about his playing days, they remember his leadership, his courage and his determination as much as his amazing runs and jarring tackles. They all agree he's just as selfless and heroic throughout his battle with ALS.
"Brett never feels sorry for himself," said Northwestern head football coach Tom Linette. "He's just positive. He's got so much courage."
Snyder founded Tackle ALS as an organization that would help raise awareness and funds for various charities that are part of the fight for ALS. He didn't want it to only benefit himself, but he wanted it to help others with ALS and their families.
"I think it's a great lesson that he wanted to help others," said Jim Tkach.
In addition to the daily announcements, both schools will sell t-shirts and wristbands during the week. Each school's teachers union is also collecting donations. Both schools will hold a hat day in which students can pay a dollar to wear a hat in school.
The wristbands and t-shirts will also be available at the game Friday night, which will be played in Slatington. Donations will also be accepted at the game.
"From Monday through Friday night at 7:09 p.m. we're going to do what we can to sell t-shirts and wristbands and raise awareness for both organizations," said Northern Lehigh athletic director Bryan Geist. "Then Friday night at 7:10 it's over. We're going at it on the football field."
There's no better way to end a week honoring Brett and Bo than for these two teams to lock horns for their annual football battle.