MADISON, NJ - Hundreds of fans came out on Sunday in support of the annual Believe in a Cure basketball event held at Fairleigh Dickenson University.  Six local high schools participated in the fundraiser to raise money and bring awareness to the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation (CBTF).

With six schools participating, this year's Believe in a Cure event was the biggest yet. Over the course of the day, 12 teams [six girls and six boys teams] played six games. Participating high schools: Chatham, Morris Knolls, Madison, Roselle Park, Governor Livingston, Randolph, J.P. Stevens, West Morris and Watchung Hills.

Event founder, Joe Reel, Madison High School's head varsity basketball coach, started the event six years ago when he was an assistant coach at Gov. Livingston High School.

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“I teach in the Berkeley Heights School District at William Woodruff Elementary School. It was there that I gained inspiration for the event from one of my students named Spencer Jacovini who had just beaten brain cancer. Spencer's mantra was ‘Believe.’ Hence, the name Believe in a Cure. We raised about $8,000 in two years at Governor Livingston," said Reel. "As I moved forward and became an assistant at Chatham High School, I brought the event with me. I was an assistant there for two years. In those two years, we raised close to $20,000 for the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation.”  Now, in his third year as Madison's boys head basketball coach, the event has raised over $8,000 for CBTF. 

Reel reflected on the importance of his players connecting with cancer survivors, and providing a "small outlet" for the survivors. “For the last six years, Spencer Jacovini and other cancer survivors have joined the team on the bench for the game,” said Coach Reel. "Raising the money for the foundation was always a secondary purpose of the event." Now that Spencer is in high school, he didn't join the team on the bench, but he was in attendance. 

Madison High School girls varsity coach Lisa Dituro was happy to be part of the event and see all the schools come together.  “This is a wonderful opportunity for the players to support a great cause,” said Dituro, 

The Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation (CBTF) is a non-profit organization with the mission to improve treatment, quality of life and long-term outlook for children and their families affected by brain or spinal cord tumors. CBTF has locations across the United States, with their headquarters in New York City.

“It’s overwhelming to see the immense support for what can be a very lonely disease,” said CBTF president Stacia Wagner. “A huge thanks to all the high school teams for making our families feel special and raising funds for our foundation.”

Cancer survivor Kyra Torch was also grateful for the support. When she was eight, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and survived. In the years following, she has received financial and emotional support from CBTF and she continues to volunteer at their events.

“The foundation has been really good to me, especially when I was going through hard times during high school and college,” said Torch. “I can’t find the words to describe their help for me. It’s just a great foundation and it’s amazing that people come together to donate and raise money for people like me.” Now, 23, Torch lives in Boonton and is working towards a career in social worker, while still volunteering with CBTF.

To learn more about the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, visit their website at http://cbtf.org/.