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"Bo and Brett's Backyard Brawl" is about family

Published October 05. 2012 05:03PM

This week's column is about family.

It starts out with "Bo and Brett's Backyard Brawl".

Northern Lehigh and Northwestern Lehigh have formed quite a rivalry on the gridiron in recent years and both schools have come together to play the game for a great cause.

The game takes place on Friday, October 12 at Tiger Stadium and funds will be raised for the Bo Tkach Memorial Organization and Brett Snyder.

Bo, son of former Northern Lehigh head coach Jim Tkach, who was a standout quarterback for the Bulldogs, took his own life in 2007.

Snyder, one of the most outstanding running backs in the history of the Northwestern Lehigh football program, has been fighting Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), for the past nine years. His brother Josh is now the head football coach of the Tigers.

To say that these are two worth causes to raise money for is definitely an understatement.

"This all came about with the cooperation of the two schools," said Jim Tkach when asked about the event. "With Joe Tout (Northern Lehigh head coach), Bryan Geist (No. Lehigh AD), Jason Zimmerman (Northwestern AD) and Josh Snyder.

"This all started years back with a flag football game between alumni from both schools, then we started to worry because it got bigger than just school teams. If we were going to have bar teams involved we were worried that it might turn into fights and stuff like that.

"We realized that we can raise more awareness of what we're fighting for at the high school game. When Panther Valley and Lehighton played on Thursday night last year, that was a game we got involved in and we've been told when Lehighton gets into the Anthracite League in two years, they're hoping to go back to Thursday night's with that game and we'll be involved again.

"The Backyard Brawl came out of the West Virginia-Pitt thing and it just made sense. Those two schools go at each other, but they're all friends. It's going to be a neat night and then next year it will come back to Northern Lehigh."

Talk to anyone on both sides and all they talk about is how honored they are to be part of the game since Bo and Brett were friends.

Back when he was diagnosed with ALS, Brett was given 18 months to live. Today, just as he did as a member of the Northwestern Lehigh and Lehigh University football teams, Brett is still fighting the battle.

The challenges are a lot different today than they were eight years ago. His home has been remodeled to make everything wheelchair accessible. He has been forced to take treatments that aren't always accepted by insurance providers. So it's just not a physical battle any more. It's bigger than that.

That's why events like this are important for Brett so he can financially continue to fight this disease and for the Foundation, so it can help more and more people today who have considered committing suicide.

"It's more of an awareness night than a fund-raiser for the foundation," said Tkach. We'll give out wristbands and things of that nature. We're not going in to it to make a lot of money We're letting people know that we're out there and that depression is an illness and it puts people in touch with the organization."

The bottom line is it's all about saving lives on both ends.

Donation checks can be made payable to Northern Lehigh football and sent to coach Joe Tout care of Northern Lehigh High School, 1 Bulldog Lane, Slatington, PA 18080. Donations also will be accepted at the gate the night of the game.

This is one Friday night during football season that more than the final score matters.


Speaking of family, the sports media lost a long-time friend this past week when Nick Young passed away along with his wife Anna Mae from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Young, who taught in the Tamaqua Area School District for 41 years, was also the school's head boys basketball coach during his tenure.

When his coaching days ended, Young began a long career as the voice of high school basketball for WMGH Magic 105.5 FM and WLSH 1410 AM. Many a night I'd be heading home or back to the office after covering a high school basketball game and I'd turn on Young and his co-hosts, either Pat Morgans or Mark Marek, and listen to the final minutes of the game they were broadcasting that night.

My most recent conversation with Nick was when I chauffeured a family member to St. Luke's in Coaldale for blood work and Nick was there volunteering his services. That's just the type of guy Nick was.

And the number of lives he touched during his years on the court and behind the microphone are to large to imagine.

Thanks for the memories Nick.

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