Team raises MS awareness
Every so often, between the buzzing of the overhead florescent lights and the squeaking of sneakers on the waxed court floor, a fit of girlish giggles fills the Liberty Middle School gym.
The seven players on the court form a blur of scabbed elbows, bruised knees and high-top Nikes dashing from one hoop to the other.
There’s a swish of a ponytail and then the swish of the ball through the net, quickly followed by the objection of a defender.
“I got stuck on your bracelet, which you’re not even allowed to wear!” shouts the defender, chiding the shooter. “That’s a technical!” she adds motioning a T-shape with her hands.
The two exchange a mock-serious glance broken quickly by a brief, but resounding, fit of laughter. These girls, now 12 and 13 years old, have been playing on a team together since they were 9. The result is a sister-like camaraderie on the court.
The game quickly resumes, and the foul is forgotten. Practice must go on.
Practice helps you win, and winning gets you noticed. And getting notice is what this team is all about.
It’s obvious from watching just one Sunday afternoon practice that the Rampage Remix basketball team is not your average little-league squad. The team stands out not only for their talent — the girls are three-time Florida state champions — and girlish flair, but for the logo that’s on their jerseys.
Last year, the girls of Rampage Remix and their coach, Joel Vega of Winter Park, donated their work and wardrobe on the court to supporting awareness of multiple sclerosis, a chronic, disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system. It affects 400,000 Americans, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“It started as an inspirational thing for my mother-in-law, who suffers from MS, and has developed into a way of teaching our girls that there’s more to life outside of basketball,” Vega said.
The girls now don bright orange uniforms with the signature MS logo on the back where a team member’s name is typically displayed. As a group, they’re hard to miss, and that’s exactly the point.
“Every time we have a tournament, we have at least one person come up to us and tell us they appreciate what we’re doing, that they have an aunt or a sibling that’s been diagnosed with MS and it’s meant a lot for them to see us,” said Amanda, team mom and Coach Vega’s wife.
In addition to wearing the MS awareness color orange, at each game the team comes equipped with cards to pass out to people watching in the stands to explain why they’re wearing it and what the logo stands for.
“The basketball team is just our special way for spreading awareness and letting people know that this is out there and that a lot of people are suffering,” Amanda said. “If we can just teach that one person, maybe that’ll help them touch somebody’s life in the future.”
Spreading the word
Before spreading the awareness outward, the Vegas brought in the director of programs and services, Jim O’Brien, from the Mid Florida Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to give the members of the team a crash course in the basics of the disease.
“This is a really smart, motivated group of young women,” O’Brien said. “They’re out trying to not only do something they enjoy, but to make more awareness and raise funds for a charity as well.”
In order to travel as much as their year-round Amateur Athletic Union schedule demands, fundraising is necessary. Sticking with the team’s theme, a portion of all money raised is donated back to the MS Society.
The team has also inspired a local sixth grade boy’s basketball team to begin a similar mission to raise awareness and funds for the Nathaniel’s Hope charity for children with special needs.
Rampage Remix doesn’t limit their charity to MS; the team also annually competes in “Think Pink” tournaments benefiting breast cancer awareness, bringing awareness to two causes at once.
“We see pink everywhere,” Amanda Vega said, “but we never really see orange. We’re out to change that.”
For more information on Multiple Sclerosis and fundraising events in Central Florida, visit www.nationalmssociety.org/chapters/FLC/index.aspx
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