The University of Toledo will hold spring football practice today at Mentor High School at 6 p.m., located more than two hours away, in honor of a former Toledo women's basketball player who has been battling cancer.
Ashlee Barrett, a member of the Toledo Rockets women's basketball team for two seasons learned in April 2012 that she was battling leukemia. Her boyfriend Ben Pike, a junior defensive lineman for the Rockets, gave up football to join Barrett's side as she battled through her fight with cancer.
All seemed well, she entered remission later that year but in late January found out her cancer had returned. Pike hasn't returned to the field for the Rockets as he's spent as much time as possible helping his now fiancee' in her struggle with the disease while finishing up his degree in education at Toledo--he's set to graduate in May.
Pike will join Ashlee in St. Louis, where she's been living since college and working as a 2nd grade teacher. Her road isn't going to be easy though, as she must undergo painful chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in the coming months ahead all in hopes of finally beating cancer.
As a sign of support for Barrett and Pike, the University of Toledo decided to hold a spring football practice at Pike's former high school, Mentor, with the motto "Faith Not Fear".
"Ashlee's courage throughout her ordeal has been an inspiration for our football team. We want to do anything we can to help her and Ben so moving the practice to Ben's high school seemed like a great idea. It will be a very special practice for our team. Ashlee has been in all our thoughts and prayers a lot lately, but will be even more so on Friday," said Rockets head coach Matt Campbell in an official statement.
Admission to the practice is free but donations to help Barrett and Pike get through this troubling time will be accepted and encouraged. Pike will give a speech at the practice. It's an honest, heartfelt show of humanity and compassion by a sport often vilified for it's brutality.
"When you see them together, you just go, 'OK, we're going to fight this and we're going to win it.," said Pike's mother, Becky to the Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this year.
With the love and support of her fiancee' and family, and now the support of an entire community it's hard to think anything but victory over cancer will be the outcome for Barrett.