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Lions battle Bears in charity fundraiser in Abbotsford

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Grey Cup Champions play St. John Brebeuf boys basketball team in an effort to help a local family
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
Josh Ismirnioglou (right) sits with two friends holding the Grey Cup and B.C. Lions Joash Gesse (left), Akeem Foster (back), and Marco Iannuzzi (right), during a charity basketball game to raise money for Ismirnioglou's battle with cancer. Nathan Rumohr / The B.C. Catholic
An Abbotsford boy received a big boost in his fight against cancer from the Grey Cup Champion B.C. Lions March 16.

St. John Brebeuf (SJB) hosted a basketball fundraiser called Hoops for Hope for student Josh Ismirnioglou: the B.C. Lions battled the SJB Bears. There was also a silent art auction.

"We are overwhelmed," said Cheryle Ismirnioglou, his mother. "I can't believe the Grey Cup champions are here for Josh."

Josh is enduring a second bout with a soft-tissue cancerous tumour called rhabomysarcoma. It was in remission until last January. His second bout has the family worried because the tumour is hidden behind Josh's cheekbone and B.C. surgeons will not attempt to remove it because of the surgery's difficulty.

The family, who attend St. James Parish in Abbotsford, hope a surgeon in Boston will operate on Josh to remove the tumour. A decision on the operation is awaiting an MRI. If the operation is cleared, it won't be covered under B.C.'s medical coverage.

Alicia Borsoi, a family friend, heard about Josh's condition and the potential costs of treatment. She contacted her employer, Kim Chapdelaine, for assistance.

Chapdelaine's husband is B.C. Lions offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jacques Chapdelaine. The couple got hold of the Grey Cup for two days, and built a fundraiser for Josh around the trophy visit.

"It's an easy thing for the organization to do. The CFL typically gets involved in events like this."

Chapdelaine said the Lions organization is very involved in the community and the players buy in to that culture. Unfortunately many of the Lions were unable to play in the game because of another commitment, but receiver Akeem Foster, linebacker Joash Gresse, receiver Marco Iamuzzire, and coach Mark Washington took time out of their offseason to participate.

Even with a shorthanded team the Lions beat the Bears 84-49. While both teams had their minds on Josh, they didn't let up on the competition. Trash talk from both benches was prevalent throughout the game.

"The players wanted to play hard," Chapdelaine joked. The game officials got in on the fun too when they called a foul against the Bears because a fan wore a Saskatchewan Roughriders jersey to the charity game.

The Ismirnioglous watched the game courtside on VIP couches. "It's really heartwarming when the community is behind you," Cheryle said.

After the game the spotlight was back on Josh. Angelo, Cheryle, and Josh thanked everyone in attendance.

"I am blessed with a wonderful family and community," she said.

SJB had held a talent show two weeks before that raised $4,000 for the family. The goal of the basketball fundraiser was also $4,000.

There were also unexpected donations. The family that won the fundraiser's 50/50 draw donated their winnings to the Ismirnioglous. Josh's friend Justin Hardgrave also raised $250 with his group and presented the money to Josh at the event.

The outpouring of support surprised Cheryle because Josh and his sister Monica are still new to SJB.

"They're all new friends of Josh," she said. However, the school and the community supported the family whether they knew them well or not. One parent said after the game, "This is what a Christian community should be."

If you know of any upcoming sporting events, have an idea for a sports story, or want to submit a sports photo, please email our sports editor at

Last Updated on Friday, 06 April 2012 07:09  

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