March 17, 2005
EVANSTON, Ill. -- When Northwestern takes the field this weekend at the Capital Classic in Sacramento, Calif., it will be playing for a little bit more than usual. The Wildcats are dedicating their efforts this weekend to the cause of 14-year-old Molly Sacksteder, who is fighting a much bigger battle -- against leukemia.
Molly Sacksteder is a freshman at Paradise High School in Paradise, Calif., alma mater of Northwestern sophomore Eileen Canney. Sacksteder is currently at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, about an hour and a half from the fields and courts where she has played softball, soccer, volleyball and basketball.
"Molly is in and out of chemo treatments right now," Canney said. "She is one of the fiercest competitors I know and athletics have always been such a big part of her life, so this has been very hard for her."
Sacksteder played softball both with and against Canney's younger sister, and they have supported each other from the stands.
"I always watched my sister's games and Molly's family came to all of my games," Canney said. "Molly has become a big Northwestern fan and follows the team closely."
Sacksteder's volleyball coach, John Parks, described her in February to the Paradise Post as "a leader who cares a great deal about how others are doing." Now the community is showing Sacksteder just how much they care about her.
Molly's parents have virtually moved to Sacramento to be with her, so the town held a fundraiser last Saturday to support them. More than 800 people attended the event, a turnout that testifies to the effect Sacksteder has had on the town of 50,000. A banner hangs from the scorer's table in the Paradise High School gym, voicing the school's support for her.
With NU scheduled to be in Sacramento, Canney wanted a way to show the Wildcats are behind Sacksteder, too. So Northwestern's play at the Capital Classic will serve as a tribute to her battle, and the team will visit her in the hospital.
"The power and determination she uses to defeat opponents in sports, we are now using that to defeat leukemia," Molly's mother, Carey, told the Post. The Wildcats hope to display just a little of the courage Molly has on the diamond this weekend.
With so many people in Paradise involved in Sacksteder's fight, Canney rallied her teammates and coaches to the cause as well. "I wanted to find a way to do something meaningful for her," Canney said.