Wells High senior Franny Ramsdell, center, said the recent dedication at the Wells Cancer Care Center shows that the Wells girls’ basketball program’s annual fundraiser “actually made a difference.” She is joined by head coach Don Abbott, right, and  2014 Wells High graduate Stephanie Woods. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

WELLS — Don Abbott wasn’t sure what to expect 10 years ago when he began the Shootin’ for a Cure fundraiser at Wells High. He only knew he wanted to raise funds to benefit the Wells Breast Care Center, a branch of York Hospital.

He figured his girls’ basketball team at Wells might raise $1,000 that first year. They ended up with over $13,000.

Since then, Shootin’ for a Cure, held annually on the Saturday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, has raised $270,790. And last week, York Hospital reciprocated that generosity by dedicating the renovated Wells Breast Care Center in the team’s honor. As you enter the second floor wing, you are greeted with a sign that says, “Dedicated to the Wells Girls Basketball Program.”

“After 10 years, after going to the event and thanking them every time and thanking the community for its support, I just felt we should do some more,” said Jud Knox, president and CEO of York Hospital. “I felt we should somehow celebrate, in a bigger way, what the community and the girls have done.”

York Hospital officials believe it is the first time a high school sports team has been so honored.

“The dollars they’ve raised are almost unbelievable,” said Knox. “They’re actually incredible.”

The Wells basketball players, current and former, are honored by the dedication.

“I’ve been out of the program for five years,” said Nicky Moody, a 2014 graduate of Wells who is now a nurse at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, New Hampshire. “When I heard about it, I was in tears. Wow, we had an impact.”

Moody said participating in the fundraiser and meeting cancer survivors “inspired me in my career path.”

Stephanie Woods, another 2014 graduate who is also a nurse, saw the announcement on Facebook and just stared at it for long seconds. “I think it was super emotional to see that they really appreciate everything that’s evolved over the 10 years,” she said.

“It shows that we actually made a difference,” said Franny Ramsdell, a senior on this year’s Warriors team.

The first Shootin’ for a Cure was held in 2010. When school had opened the previous September, Abbott learned from one of his players that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. A day or so later, the wife of a close friend was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

So he met with Knox, a long-time family friend, to talk about how he could help. Knox mentioned the York Hospital Wells Breast Care Center, which is just down the road from the high school.

Any girl involved in the basketball program, from the fifth grade up, is given pledge packets to collect money. Abbott said the goal is for each girl to raise $100.

On the day of the event, a day-long celebration is held at Wells High with food and raffles, everything donated by local businesses. The girls come out with their teams and each one shoots 50 foul shots. Prizes are awarded to the girls who hit the most foul shots and raise the most money.

Cancer survivors have joined some of the players at the foul line. Many are known to the players. Ramsdel was joined by her grandmother and great aunt. “It was a special feeling for me,” said Ramsdell. “I was real young when I started out, so I didn’t understand the whole meaning of it. Now as I’ve gotten older I understand it more, how each of those little donations each of us bring in go so far and really make a difference in our community.”

At the end of the night, the Warriors play a varsity game before a packed gym. But before that, they present what Abbott calls “a Price is Right check” to York Hospital. Last year, it was for $18,590.

The money goes to a fund called Living Well with Cancer, said Knox. It is used to help cancer patients pay for gas or food, oil, rent or phone bills. The funds also provide wigs, head covers and programs such as yoga, exercise, massage and acupuncture.

“These young women have a tremendous grasp of social awareness for our patients in their community who are faced with a new cancer diagnosis,” said Dr. Amanda Demetri-Lewis, the lead breast care radiologist at York Hospital. “Their funds are providing direct patient support to help our patients physically and emotionally.”

“I’m extremely proud of this,” said Kenzie Foss, who graduated last June and is now attending the University of New Hampshire. “It’s amazing to see the commitment that these girls have made.”

The girls’ basketball team isn’t the only program at Wells to help someone in need. The wrestling team raised funds to help a former wrestler, Nate Smith, and his son, Spencer, in battling a rare, incurable neurological disease known as Sanfilippo syndrome.

“It’s that small-town mentality,” said Moody. “You take care of everybody. We’re a community that wants to come together. If someone is in trouble, we want to take care of them.”

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