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FREDERICKTOWN — When the Fredericktown Freddies host the Cardington Pirates in their scheduled Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference girls basketball matchup Saturday, it could be one of the more memorable games for both programs in a very long time.
It is doubtful that anyone will remember the final score or who the leading scorers were. This game, however, will speak volumes for the basketball programs and communities of both Fredericktown and Cardington.
With the Pirates at the top of the KMAC standings and the Freddies at the bottom, the focus isn’t going to be basketball. It will serve as a tribute and a fundraiser for the family of Fredericktown coach Tim Maceyko and his daughter, former Cardington Pirates’ basketball player Allie Maceyko, who was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Disease last month.
It has been a long road for the Maceykos, who live in Cardington, where Tim Maceyko coached before taking charge of the Fredericktown girls program this season. This diagnosis is only the latest setback for the Maceykos. Tragedy struck in 2013, when the Maceykos lost Allie’s younger brother, 5-year-old Seth, in a bunk bed accident.
“The community in Cardington rallied around us,” Coach Maceyko said. “It was just an amazing thing, how they showed love and support. They embraced us and picked us up.”
Strangely enough, it is Seth who is helping to guide his sister and the rest of the family through these troubled times.
“So, Allie went through (losing Seth) when she was only in the seventh grade,” Coach Maceyko said. “Now, to turn around and get hit again with something like this for Allie herself. She’s only 19 years old, fresh out of high school. To have this happen twice in one family is very unusual. Of course, the prognosis it’s much better with Allie. It’s just such a hard thing to battle and go through.”
Fortunately for everyone, advances in treatment have given new hope, where there was little a generation ago.
“(Medical science) has come a long way with it, as far as treatment goes,” Coach Maceyko said. “She’s doing well with that so far. Her first chemo treatment is (today) before the game (on Saturday), so we will see how she feels.”
For Allie, the realization that things were not right came gradually. Exercising caution paid off.
“Early in December, she noticed that one of her lymph nodes around her neck was a little swollen,” Coach Maceyko said. “She asked me about it, and I thought it was just a little infection and typical. We went to the doctor to get a check, just to be safe. He was concerned and that led to getting it scanned. Then, the day after Christmas, she got a biopsy. It was just a few days later that they called us to say that she actually had Hodgkin’s.”
Starting that day, life has been different for the family.
“If you go back to losing Seth, that really caused Allie to grow up very quickly,” Coach Maceyko said. “In fact all of the doctors and nurses kept repeating the same phrase, ‘Wow you’re really mature for your age.’ What I’m saying is that, once she had the traumatic experience with Seth, she had to look at the whole world differently than most kids do. I think she’s handled all of this very well. She’s been very positive. She’s even joked about it a little bit. I’m sure she has a little moments in private, but out and about and even with us, she’s been very strong. I attribute this to what she’s gone through already. it’s just another bump in the road, but at the same time, she is scared, like anyone would be. She’s had the support of the community, and this event is going to lift her up and give her the feeling of, ‘Hey I can do this.’”
Allie is going to college at OSU Marion, where she’s majoring in education and wants to specialize in early childhood education. She wanted to be a veterinarian growing up, but she changed her mind after losing Seth, and now she wants to work with children that age, because he was so special to her.
“Personally, I believe that everything happens for a reason,” Allie said. “Whether it is losing my brother or getting diagnosed with cancer. It will always make me a better person. My brother motivated me harder in early education, and now this diagnosis will motivate me harder to keep going.”
She played over at Cardington until she graduated last year. She was on the teams that won the KMAC and MOAC titles all four years that she was there. Allie was going to go to Mount Vernon Nazarene University, who offered her a partial scholarship to play on the JV team, but Allie decided to study education at OSU Marion. She has been overwhelmed by the kindness of both communities.
“I grew up in Cardington, so I was always part of a small town,” Allie said. “It will always have a special place in my heart. Then, we transferred over to Fredericktown and everyone here has rallied around us. That gives me a very warm feeling, too — as though I have always lived there. It’s incredible how they all came together.”
Allie’s other dream is to coach. She wants to teach and coach. That’s her long-term game plan.
“Just being in the gym, I will hear her talking to the girls behind the bench,” Coach Maceyko said. “She’ll tell them, ‘Hey do this,’ or ‘Hey do that,’ so she already has it in her blood. She will sit in the stands and my wife will tell me later that Allie said, ‘Dad should have called timeout there,’ so she’s one step ahead of me, I think.”
Allie has been an inspiration to her father, as well.
“She is very strong, independent and very mature for her age,” Coach Maceyko said. “I can’t be more proud of the way she’s handling that adversity, as a father. In coaching, I was always thinking, ‘I’ve got to win, I’ve got to win’. I coached eighth grade at Cardington for a few years and we had several undefeated teams. I started coaching at Fredericktown this year and we haven’t won a ball game. That would have grinded on me in years past more than most. I found that you put things in perspective sometimes. Everybody wants to win, but the kids are trying and they’re doing the best they can. The coaches are doing the right things in practice. It’s just that the team hasn’t been able to put it together for four quarters.
“Then, you look at something like this with Allie and you say, ‘You know what? There is such a bigger picture in life.’ Sometimes we lose sight of that and we get worked up over a ball game.”
It didn’t take a tragedy like this for the Fredericktown community to take the Maceykos under their wing, but once the bad news came along, the community really sprang into action.
“I also have to say that we could not have asked for a better place to be than Fredericktown because they have been wonderfully supportive,” Coach Maceyko said. “Before we ever knew that Allie had this disease, they were very supportive of everything we were doing. The administration has been great and the AD has been just phenomenal. When this occurred, everyone stepped up.”
The random acts of kindness came from many sources.
“The girls put together a care package, where they put all kinds of things in there like snacks that she could have when she was going through her treatments,” Coach Maceyko said. “Things like that are so special. There was even somebody who took care of her car payments for a few months, so she would not have to work and go to school at the same time while she was getting her treatments. It’s things like that which are so amazing. These wonderful acts of kindness.”
Coach Maceyko, who suffered a broken neck in an automobile accident in high school and fought a hard battle to overcome the resulting paralysis, could have given up. He had been dealt some very bad blows in life, but he has kept going. As a result, the door to a career in coaching opened.
“Absolutely,” Coach Maceyko said. “Especially after losing Seth and we thought about how we could go on, ‘Why us?’ and all those things. Then, we got to the point where we realized it’s not really us. Things happen and you just have to learn to face of adversity and learn to overcome. You can grow and get stronger, or you can falter and get weaker. I don’t think there’s much choice with Allie. She’s going to be stronger for what she is facing because she learned with Seth. You have to have faith that all of these things will make sense one day and in the meantime, you have to overcome and keep on making something positive out of something that doesn’t seem so positive.”
In the meantime, Saturday promises to be a big win for both teams and an opportunity to give support and comfort.
“I coached over at Cardington for so many years,” Coach Maceyko said. “So I have pretty much coached all of them. They are like my own kids. I love them all and it’s really special because I have such a great group of kids at Fredericktown for my first year. So far, we have not had a whole lot of success on the court, per se, but they have kept their heads up, they work hard and they are great kids in general. This should really be a great experience.”
Read more of this story in today’s Mount Vernon News or online in the E-edition