JACKSON – Don Connor, the boys varsity basketball coach at Jackson Liberty High School, is Jackson through and through.
Connor is a lifelong resident of the township and his family has been a big part of the high school sports landscape in the community.
His late father, Don, was the athletic director at Jackson Memorial High School, which at the time was the Jackson School District’s only high school, from 1966-87.
After Jackson Liberty High School was built and since 2007, the Don Connor Award has been presented to the winner of the annual Jackson Memorial vs. Jackson Liberty football game, and Don Connor Boulevard, where Jackson Memorial is located, is named after the legendary athletic director.
Jackson is a special place to the younger Connor and in September he was pleased to support the Chase Ryan Olsen Foundation and to raise funds to help fight childhood cancer.
Jackson resident Maureen Olsen created the foundation in 2012 in honor of her son, Chase, who passed away from a malignant rhabdoid tumor in November 2009 at the age of 9.
With September having been designated as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Olsen has worked with municipal officials over the years to display gold ribbons around the community to raise awareness of childhood cancer.
Connor and his family have participated in the event and helped to place gold ribbons throughout the Jackson Liberty campus this season.
Wanting to do more to assist the cause, Connor had an idea to collect donations for the foundation. The idea was to have his basketball program run a “Change for Cancer” fundraiser during the last week of September at the high school.
“This was a great way to help out a foundation in our area,” Connor said. “Being a lifelong resident and working in the school district I grew up in, it means a lot to me to support a family and a cause that has touched so many people in the community.”
Connor and his players placed large empty water jugs around campus and asked students and staff members to fill the jugs with monetary donations, even including their spare change.
To make the fundraiser more exciting, Connor made it a competition between each grade level on his team to see which class would raise the most money.
From Sept. 27 through Oct. 1, all of the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors on the team asked their classmates and teachers to donate to the fundraiser.
Connor’s goal was to raise between $400 and $500 for the foundation. The final total exceeded that goal as the Jackson Liberty community donated $1,077.33.
“I could not believe we raised that much in that short amount of time,” Connor said. “The team was great with it. It was sort of a push toward normalcy. We tried to make it more fun and get everyone’s spirits up.”
Connor and his players presented Olsen with a check for $1,077.33 on Oct. 11. The coach said he was looking forward to making the donation and to supporting the foundation. He has hopes the fundraiser can become an annual event.
“To see my kids be a part of this is really special. We want to do it every year,” the Lions’ basketball coach said.