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‘Face Off’ raises record $75K for breast cancer patients

MIDDLEBURY — The 15th annual “Face Off Against Breast Cancer” hockey tournament broke an all-time fundraising record this year, raising $75,000. That put the total amassed for the statewide Cancer Patient Support Program at more than $400,000 altogether over all 15 years.
Tournament was hosted by the Middlebury Otters and the Middlebury Mystix, two local women’s community ice hockey teams, at the Memorial Sports Center in Middlebury on Jan. 25 and 26.
The tournament was founded in 2000, when one of the Middlebury Otters was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily, she is still a survivor and is said to be a great stick-handler.
This year’s competition brought together 13 women’s hockey teams from all over Vermont to take part in competitive, recreational and novice divisions, as well as a “Friends and Family” division for men, kids and co-ed groups. In addition to the Otters and Mystix, the other teams included the Burlington Ice Breakers, Green Mountain Thunder, Evolution, Waterbury Wicked, Manchester Rusty Blades, Burlington Black Ice, Burlington Switch Blades, Arctic Foxes, Northeast Kingdom Women’s Hockey, Team Warrior, and Barre 32 Degrees.
Although the tournament is for a good cause, many participants also enjoy the competition. This year, the winning teams in each division were Team Warrior in the competitive division, Middlebury Otters in recreational and  Middlebury Mystix in novice.
In addition to hockey games, the Face Off Against Breast Cancer also included several other associated activities, including a fun-filled benefit concert/dance night with the Horse Traders at Two Brothers Tavern.
Friends and families of the participants enjoyed cheering on their teams, as well as socializing and forming bonds with others who face this disease. One story shared was of the four Hayes sisters of “Team Warrior,” who played in honor of their mom, a breast cancer survivor. The four young women spanned 11 years in age and last month’s Face Off Against Breast Cancer was the first time all four had ever played on a  team together. Also, breast cancer survivor Cathy Aragi of the Manchester Rusty Blades played for the first time in years, and dozens of her family and friends showed up at the rink to surprise her and cheer her on.
One in eight women will face a breast cancer diagnosis in her lifetime.
Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Cancer Patient Support Program (CPSP)’s patient services and emergency fund, and are earmarked for breast cancer patients. CPSP provides counseling, nutritional support, and emergency financial assistance. The Face Off Against Breast Cancer is the single largest fundraiser for CPSP’s Emergency Fund.

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