Community dedicates soccer game to cancer victim

Jack Killeen
Junior Editor in Chief

Crowd members participate in the minute of cheering held in honor of freshman Alaina Bickhaus during Thursday’s game against Parkway Central.  Photo by Jack Killeen
Crowd members participate in the minute of cheering held in honor of freshman Alaina Bickhaus during Thursday’s game against Parkway Central.  (Photo by Jack Killeen)

With 15 minutes on the scoreboard, the sea of yellow that is the home crowd breaks into applause. To a bystander it seems like a spontaneous burst of team spirit, but Webster supporters know it’s for freshman Alaina Bickhaus, whose 15 years of life ended only a few hours earlier.

Bickhaus, who grew up in Webster and attended the Computer School, Steger and Hixson, was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor, in June of 2013. She was taken off treatment on Sept. 9, and since then, spent her time on a hospital bed in her living room. Bickhaus was never able to walk the halls of Webster Groves High School as a student because of the cancer.

Bickhaus played basketball, volleyball and swam for Webster Waves. As described by freshman and friend Katie Conley, Bickhaus was talkative, loud and good at making friends. She had a bit of an attitude that made her that much more fun.

Freshman Brendan Muldoon recalled the multiple meals he spent with Bickhaus, his mom and her mom, at The Pancake House. Bickhaus always ordered two plain pancakes, with butter and syrup, but never ate it all. While she was going through treatment, Muldoon would visit Bickhaus and just sit and talk with her while she lay in bed.

Muldoon said, “She’s a good friend to everybody, no matter who you are.”

On Sept. 18, Webster’s Varsity soccer game against Parkway Central was dedicated to Bickhaus. The crowd showed support towards the Bickhaus family by wearing yellow, the color that represents Ewing Sarcoma. Players wore yellow tape around their wrists and ankles to express their support.

“It’s great. I love seeing Webster Groves come together to support my sister,” said junior Trey Bickhaus, Alaina’s brother.

About 40 juniors came up with the idea to dedicate Thursday’s game to Bickhaus. This group communicated through the smart phone app, GroupMe, a means for multiple people to communicate in one message stream. Group members refer to themselves as “Squaaadd.”

Squaaadd wanted to do something to recognize the strength and courage Bickhaus and her entire family have shown throughout this tragic time. “She’s a part of our high school and deserves to be honored,” Squaaadd members said.

This group includes members of the Selma Street Elite and 11 Varsity soccer players. Squaaadd contributed ideas into every aspect in which Bickhaus was honored.

Head Varsity Coach Tim Cashel was glad to have his team dedicate the game to Bickhaus. He said, “When you get approached with something like this, you just think about the family. We just wanted to lift their spirits. Everybody feels sympathy for the family. I love soccer, but we’re also a part of the Webster Groves community. To me, it’s a function of the team and program to help.”

Junior Becca Riley organized the game dedication. She went to activities director Jerry Collins and Coach Cashel to gain their approval, orchestrated an announcement over the intercom about the game on Wednesday and Thursday and set up balloons, streamers and a banner to decorate Selma Field with the help of other students.

About why she felt compelled to do this, Riley said, “I would want the same support for myself if this had happened to my family and me. It’s horrible.”

As another means of tribute, a minute of applause was held with 15 minutes left to go in the first half, as a celebration of the 15 years of life Bickhaus has lived. During this minute, 15 yellow balloons were released into the sky by friends of Bickhaus. There was also a halftime speech read by Selma Street Elite President Anthony Rivituso, senior. Riley wrote the speech with the help of junior Cullen Drissell, and then Cashel edited it.

Cashel said the parents were happier to have a minute of applause as opposed to a moment of silence because of its positive nature. “You like to think that someone’s life is celebratory,” he said.

According to Dr. Jon Clark, 300-400 students attended the game. He made an announcement concerning Bickhaus’s death the next morning, calling for a brief moment of silence throughout the whole school in her honor.

“Our support is with the Bickhaus family, and I know that I speak for the whole student body when I say that,” Cashel said.

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