Bobcats rally to help their own

Published 9:35 am Thursday, January 28, 2016

Several years ago, a new administrator approached my sister and me about a volunteer opportunity.

To two 13-year-olds, this professional-football-player-sized athletic director was quite intimidating. So, of course we said yes, and for two full basketball seasons, we handed out water bottles to officials at basketball games during time-outs and quarter breaks.

Twelve years later, that intimidating athletic director is not only one of my mentors, but practically a member of the family.

Vance Stratton and his wife, Marcia, have been like a second set of parents to me since middle school, and I feel blessed to know them.

As Vance’s secretary in high school, I had a chance to bond with he and Marcia and really get to know how much the couple supports one another, and how they would both do just about anything to help someone in need. I’ve listened to Vance counsel countless players and coaches, and been on the receiving end of those pep talks more times than I can count. The Strattons go the extra mile to make sure officials are taken care of, come in on their off time in the summer to make sure the facilities are places our community can be proud of, help coordinate feeder programs for young athletes and participate in just about every fundraiser offered at the school.

If you’ve ever attended a sporting event at Brandywine, you have more than likely crossed paths with not only the athletic director, but his wife as well.

After trading their Ranger Blue for Bobcat Gold, both Strattons have dedicated most of their lives to Brandywine.

Most home game nights, Marcia, who is in no way employed by Brandywine, drives straight from her job as a nurse in Cassopolis to help out at concession stands or volunteer her time wherever else she is needed. She has become as much of an integral part of the school district as her extremely dedicated husband.

So when the community found out that Marcia had breast cancer, in true Brandywine fashion, they rallied behind her.

Next Friday, Feb. 5, the athletic boosters have arranged a benefit for the family that has given so much to the Brandywine community. Using the hash tag #StrattonStrong, the Bobcats will “fight to slam dunk cancer,” and raise money to help the Strattons in their time of need.

Those wishing to help can participate in a silent auction, 50/50 raffles and half-court shot competitions. The gymnasium will be filled with fans donning #StrattonStrong T-shirts, and the concession stand will serve special treats like cake and walking tacos, with all funds raised benefitting the Stratton family.

A few weeks ago, the Bobcats raised money to help Coach Pat Touhey’s brother, Kevin, who is also battling cancer, and in two weeks, the Bobcats will raise funds for the family of the late Steve Miller, a long-time Brandywine science teacher who passed away last month after his own battle with cancer.

I feel blessed to belong to a community that helps out its own so regularly and encourage everyone to join the fun and help the family that has helped our community so much.


Ambrosia Neldon is the managing editor at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7713, or by email at