Last fall as Weeki Wachee prepared to embark on its first varsity season, the team showed its support for a young man known only by association.
More than 60 varsity and JV players, and even head coach Mark Lee, shaved their heads to honor 13-year-old Nick LaBarbara, Weeki Wachee principal Troy LaBarbara’s son who has battled cancer multiples times in his young life.
Additionally, the team raised funds to cover medical costs through T-shirts and wristbands.
On Wednesday night, the Hornets were honored for their actions, receiving a Kids Are Heroes award from St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa. They took first place in the 13-18 year old category.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Lee, who along with a handful of players attended the awards banquet. “It says a lot about our kids and school and our football team, rallying together and supporting a kid they didn’t even know.”
Making the accolade more special, Lee said, was the winners were selected by the children being treated at the hospital.
After spending the first two years of the school’s existence playing exclusively at the JV level, the Hornets had a respectable inaugural varsity campaign, going 3-7 yet staying competitive throughout most of their games.
But Lee also spoke to the foundation the program is setting off the field; a concept not lost on his players.
“It’s real special, that’s for sure. I’m sure it made Nick real happy,” left tackle Marcus Applefield said of the award. “It shows we can come together like a family and support one of our friends and teammates.”
“It feels great just to show support for our principal’s son and his cancer,” said defensive back Xavier Jones. “It was definitely worth it just to show support and be there for him.”