August 10, 2011 - When Travis Smith suits up this Saturday for the third annual Football for a Cure, he will be thinking of his grandmother, Marcia Leavy, who died of colon cancer in January 2002.
|From left, Travis Smith, his sister, Katie, and grandmother Marcia Leavy play a game of Sequence. Photo provided (click for larger version)|
"It is really emotional," said the senior defensive back and wide receiver for the Clarkston Varsity football team. "She never got to see me play. So to be able to play for her and play for the memory of her is the next best thing."
One of the memories is playing board games with his grandmother.
"Even though she was my grandmother she never let me win," said Smith. "We would play Sequence and she would bet me a dollar she could beat me all the time. I lost and she ended up taking that dollar and putting it up as a memento to remind me I could never beat her."
Kathy Smith, his mom, remembered the determination Travis had to beat her mom in Sequence.
"One time Travis did beat my mom and he still has the dollar she had given him for winning," she added. "It was always their special game they played."
|Travis Smith holds up his jersey for last year's Football for a Cure. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)|
The memory has come alive since Travis was a sophomore and began wearing his grandmother's name on the back of his jersey.
"He had such a special relationship with her," said Kathy. "It is a way to have her with him for the day while he is playing. When he was a sophomore we heard about Football for a Cure he said he wanted to play for his grandmother."
The first time he went onto the field for Football for a Cure in 2009 he admitted it was nerve-racking.
"It is a lot of pressure because you want to make the people you are playing for proud of you," he said. "Then again, knowing you are playing for the memory of them is the greatest experience you can have."
He added the feeling hasn't changed through the years.
"It is still nerve-racking to go out there and say you are playing for your grandmother who passed away," he said. "Standing in front of all those people trying not to tear up."
Kathy and his family have a different feeling when they see Travis out on the football field - they are proud of him.
"It will be more special this year," Kathy added. "He is a senior and the last time he will wear her nameplate on his back and the last time he will play in Football for a Cure. It is a special day and a nice way to honor everyone who has battled cancer and the ones we have lost."
All proceeds from Football for a Cure go to McLaren Breast Cancer and the Great Lakes Cancer Institute, both in Independence Township.
The varsity players proudly wear pink and blue jerseys for Football for a Cure, with kick off at 7 p.m. this Saturday at the Clarkston High School stadium.
"It's not just a football game," said Travis. "It's a way to relive people's lives through a game and make sure they are never forgotten."
For more information, call the McLaren Breast Center at 248-922-6810.
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.