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Tourney aids ailing West teen
trey rood
A flag football tournament Saturday will benefit Trey Rood, a West Forsyth High School senior who has cancer. - photo by File photo
When 17-year-old Trey Rood learned his cancer had returned in an advanced stage last summer, he didn’t let it stop him from his passion for playing football.

The season at West Forsyth High School, where Rood was a star player, has ended. But Saturday, he will join teammates and community members for a flag football tournament fundraiser to help with his medical expenses.

The Helping Hands Holiday Bowl for Trey will feature games from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at West.

Games will be divided by age and gender, with each division-winning team receiving a trophy.

Though the football tournament focuses more on children and teens, there will also be an adult division.

In addition to the football games, a free all-ages festival is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the school. It will feature several children’s activities, including pony rides, inflatables and games.

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office will have a K-9 Unit demonstration and a car club will have an antique car show. Several vendors with crafts and food will set up, donating a percentage of the day’s proceeds to the Pray for Trey medical fund.

Rood, a senior at West, was first diagnosed with Stage III melanoma as a freshman.

Following aggressive treatment, he returned to star at free safety for the Wolverines, being named all-county and all-region in 2008.

Last summer, the cancer returned as Stage IV and had spread to his lungs.

For Rood, Saturday’s football bowl will be the first fundraiser in which he has fully participated. He has been at treatments during previous ones.

Rood has formed his own team of seven in preparation for the event.

“He will definitely be represented out there,” said Cherie Rood, Trey’s mother.

Each player will donate $25 to the Pray for Trey medical fund, which helps cover Rood’s expenses.

Rood has been traveling to Germany for a special treatment not available in the U.S. He has been feeling healthy lately and throughout treatment.

So far, the medical bills have been averaging about $80,000 a month.

Helping Hands Ministries, the namesake of the tournament, is the nonprofit organization that has made tax-free donations possible for the Pray for Trey medical fund.

The family expects to get an update this week on how effective the treatments have been.

Volunteers from the school and community have been making the cost a little more feasible.

Frank Hepler, Rood’s football coach, and his wife Heidi, have been leading forces in driving the holiday fundraiser.

“My stomach clenches every time I think about being in the same situation ... and having people say, ‘Someone will help them, but not me,’” Heidi Hepler said. “I can’t stand back and say somebody will come through if I’m not doing something myself.”

She said the football tournament is a fun way to bring together the strong communal effort for the Roods. Charlie Rood, Trey’s father, was recently laid off his job.

Organizers of Saturday’s events hope to raise $5,000 for the medical fund, but Hepler added that any amount would help.

“While [the players] are out there having fun, they’re raising money for an amazing kid and a great cause,” she said.

The Heplers plan to make the holiday bowl an annual tradition, raising funds for scholarships or others in need in future years.