Many believe that one day there will be a treatment for all cancer patients. And on January 19th, at the recreation center of Farleigh Dickinson University, hundreds came for a series of basketball games, featuring multiple high school teams shooting hoops for the annual Believe in a Cure event.

“Believe in a Cure is awesome,” said 17-year-old senior A.J. Gupta, who plays boys varsity basketball for Madison High School. “I can’t put into words on what you do here for the community. We’ve gotten great crowds here and become aware of what some people go through with cancer.”

Gupta’s teammates, as well as the whole Believe in a Cure, were led by its event founder, Madison High’s varsity basketball coach Joe Reel, and has been growing over the years.

Sign Up for Madison Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“I started this event six years ago when I was an assistant at Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights,” said Reel, who has been coaching boys’ varsity basketball at Madison High for the past three years. “I teach in the Berkeley Heights School District at William Woodruff 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. 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.”

The Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation (CBTF) is a non-profit organization which has since 1988 striving to improve the treatment, quality of life and long-term outlook for children and their families affected by brain or spinal cord tumors. CBTF has location all over the states, with their main 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, who came all the way from home in Ohio to attend Believe in a Cure.

“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 another individual who was grateful for all the support. When she was only eight, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and survived. In the years following, she has received financial and emotional support from CBTF and has volunteered at several of the foundation’s events.

“The foundation has been really good to me and families, 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 at the age of 23, Torch currently lives her life in Boonton and seeks to be a social worker, while still volunteering with CBTF.

This year, Believe in a Cure has been its biggest yet. Over the course of the day, 12 teams attended the university’s campus to play six games, for boys and girls. Over 600 spectators came in and out of the recreation center, witnessing a game or two for their home teams. These high school basketball teams included Chatham, Morris Knolls, Madison, Roselle Park, Governor Livingston, Randolph, J.P. Stevens, West Morris and Watchung Hills.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the players to give back to their Madison community and support a great cause,” said Lisa Dituro, from South Brunswick, who has been the girls’ varsity basketball coach for Madison High for the past year. “I’m happy to be a part of this and see all the high schools come together.”

Coach Dituro has previously taught basketball teams at the College of St. Mary and Bloomfield College, and her girls were also happy to be part of Believe in a Cure.

“Believe in a Cure is a really good tournament that at the same time raises a lot of awareness on cancer,” said 17-year-old junior Shea Baggett, who has played girls varsity basketball at Madison High for three years. “It also an amazing to raise money and get the community involved. It’s tons of fun, knowing that you’re supporting a great cause.”

And as Madison High’s girls’ basketball team crushed Roselle Park in a 68-to-19 victory, and as the boys’ basketball team won their game against J.P. Stevens in a 51-to-34 score, Coach Reel remembered those who inspired them years ago.

“For the last six years, Spencer Jacovini and other cancer survivors have joined the team on the bench for the game,” said Coach Reel. “It was a nice way for our players to connect with cancer survivors as well as provide a small outlet for those survivors for the night. Raising the money for the foundation was always a secondary purpose of the event. As Spencer has gotten older (he is now in high school), he will not join the team on the bench this year, but him in his family will be in attendance.”

For the last two years, as Coach Reels leads the boys’ basketball team at Madison High, Believe in a Cure has raised about $6,000 for CBTF. This amount continues to grow as this year’s basketball teams were able to raise about $2,000.

Believe in a Cure featured other activities, such as spectators being allowed to take half-court shots. There were also raffle tickets, featuring prizes like tickets to the Museum of New York City, three tickets to the Museum of Illusions, two tickets to the Islanders vs. Montreal Canadians game at the Barclays Center, four tickets to a New York Mets game of winner’s choice, and tickets to Rutgers-Northwestern Basketball.

Believe in a Cure was further supported by the Madison High School Tip-In Club.

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

Read about the Girls basketball game HERE - https://www.tapinto.net/towns/madison/sections/sports/articles/tess-callaghan-leads-madison-girls-basketball-past-roselle-park-68-19-in-the-believe-in-a-cure-showcase

Read about the Boys basketball game HERE - https://www.tapinto.net/towns/madison/sections/sports/articles/the-trio-of-mariani-saurer-and-eilender-led-madison-past-j-p-stevens-in-the-believe-in-a-cure-showcase