Fundraiser to benefit SR freshman with leukemia

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 18, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
Stephen London was only 12 years old when he lost his mother to cancer.
It was close to Thanksgiving in 1987.
That’s why he’s spent the past 11 years organizing a flag football tournament that always occurs near the holiday. And the money he makes that day never hits his pocket; instead, it goes straight to a family in need.
“It’s been wonderful because it helps me get over the hump of Thanksgiving without my mother,” he said. “Me being able to do something good for somebody else helps me cope with that.”
London teamed up with Steve Nation to form Athletes for Children in 2000. The nonprofit organization raises funds for families who have children with serious illnesses.
The men started hosting flag football tournaments as a fun way to raise money.
It didn’t take long for the group to begin receiving more and more community support, including that of Donnie Vernon, a former Catawba College football player.
London said Vernon was passionate about raising funds to help out local families. That’s why the annual tournament was named for him after he died of cancer in 2002.
Every year, the money brought in by the Donnie Vernon Memorial Flag Football Tournament is donated to a local family. This year, it’s the Crawley family.
Sarah Crawley, a freshman at South Rowan High School, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia last year.
By the time she completes her fifth and final round of treatment next month her medical bills will top $1 million.
Health insurance will cover a hefty sum of that cost, but the rest will have to be picked up by her parents, Teresa and Jim Crawley.
London said the Crawleys seemed like a good fit for this year’s fundraiser because they are such a big part of the South Rowan community with Teresa teaching at the high school and Jim at China Grove Middle.
London said Jim is also a personal friend. They met while working together as football coaches at South Rowan High years ago.
“Jim was such a good friend to me when I needed somebody. He spent a lot of time helping me out,” London said. “That time he spent with me was time he missed spending with his family.
“It just felt right to combine something he loves, which is football, to help Sarah.”
The tournament will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at the J. Fred Corriher Jr. Y South Rowan Branch in China Grove.
The entry fee for a seven person team is $100. Interested parties can sign up that day.
The double-elimination tournament will run until approximately 5 p.m.
London said those not interested in palying football can come out to watch the action. Hot dogs and soda will be on sale and music will be playing throughout the day.
“People don’t have to spend a lot of money to help out,” London said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.