Swarm Homecoming Abuzz With Fun, Fundraising Success
The Swarm celebrated their homecoming Saturday while supporting a good cause.
When Kayla O’Leary was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at 8-years-old, her family was shaken.
“You hear the word cancer and you know it kills,” said her father, Greg O’Leary of Darien. “You don’t know how treatments have come a long way. All you know is it’s a cancer and it’s your kid.”
Kayla immediately underwent chemotherapy and fortunately responded well to the treatments.
Today, she has been cancer-free for 23 months.
Besides a port in her chest that delivers chemotherapy, she lives her life like any other 10-year-old. She is even a pitcher for the Darien Youth Club all-star softball team, and a member of the Darien Swarm Youth Cheerleading team.
“It’s full steam ahead for her,” Greg O’Leary said.
In 2008, the Darien Athletic Association (DAA), was formed as a feeder program for Hinsdale South High School and runs the Swarm football program, as well as baseball and soccer teams for Darien youths.
Each year, the Swarm celebrates homecoming weekend by choosing a different charity or theme, said Swarm volunteer Beth Lopez. Last year, team members held a donation drive for supplies for the troops and highlighted the sacrifices of a Swarm dad who was stationed in Afghanistan.
“His wife had given us a list of things (the troops) normally don’t get overseas, like instant coffee and pretzels,” Lopez said. “The kids had a great time collecting all of that.”
This year’s homecoming was Saturday, and the theme was cancer awareness, in honor of Kayla and former Swarm coach Gary Lester, who lost his battle with cancer in March.
For the homecoming celebration, the Swarm members held fundraisers such as a bake sale and coin collection to benefit The Wellness House in Hinsdale, a non-profit organization that supports the families of cancer patients, as well as Gary Lester's Memorial Fund.
The Saturday homecoming event also included Swarm football games played in the Hinsdale South Stadium. Players wore purple cancer awareness wristbands and socks.
Volunteer Beth Lopez said Swarm team members enjoy helping out others.
“The Swarm has always emphasized that good academics and good citizenship are just as much a part of our program as great sportsmanship,” she said. “Homecoming gives us a great opportunity to give our kids and their families an opportunity to directly participate in something very meaningful.”
Like last year’s cause, this one also hit close to home for Swarm players.
“Especially those who had Gary as a coach,” Lopez said. “He was just a really neat guy — very kid- and community-focused.”
And Kayla has proved to be in inspiration for her fellow team members.
“She’s doing phenomenal,” Lopez said. “She’s making all these positive strides.”
Lopez is thankful for everyone who supported the Swarm fundraiser Sept. 10 which netted $960.
“It was a great success,” she said.
For more information about the Darien Swarm organization, visit the website.