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If you can attend only one soccer game ...

Warren High School boys soccer coach JasAhonen talks his players during Warren High School soccer summer camp Monday July 16

Warren High School boys soccer coach Jason Ahonen talks to his players during the Warren High School soccer summer camp on Monday, July 16, 2012, at Viking Park in Gurnee. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times

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WARREN COACH JASON AHONEN EXPLAINS THE MEANING BEHIND THURSDAY’S GAME

“For almost 10 years my father, Steven Ahonen, has been battling a rare form a scleroderma that affected his lungs. Watching my dad and family struggle through this illness made me realize how often we take life for granted. This July, my father underwent a bilateral lung transplant in Tampa (Fla.) and he is recovering nicely. In honor of those who suffer from this disease and those who are given a new lease on life from organ donation, we are asking you to come support these two causes. I am pleased to host this event with Zion-Benton because I began my coaching career there and maintain a connection with the high school today (Coach Ahonen’s wife teaches in Zion).

“The entry fee for the game will be $3 for adults, $2 for high school students and $1 for students in eighth grade and younger. We will also hold a 50/50 raffle with all the money collected being donated to these organizations.

“Thank you and we hope to see you at the game on Thursday night (first kick at 7:15. Sophomores play at 5:30).”

— Jason Ahonen, Warren soccer coach (pictured)

THE SCLERODERMA FOUNDATION: WHAT IT IS AND DOES

The Scleroderma Foundation is the national organization for people with scleroderma and their families and friends. It was formed January 1, 1998. The national office is headquartered in Danvers, Mass.

The Three-Fold Mission of Support, Education and Research is as follows:

■ Support: To help patients and their families cope with scleroderma through mutual support programs, peer counseling, physician referrals and educational information.

■Education: To promote public awareness and education through patient and health professional seminars, literature and publicity campaigns.

■ Research: To stimulate and support research to improve treatment and ultimately find the cause of and cure for scleroderma and related diseases.

Scleroderma is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Hardening of the skin is one of the most visible manifestations of the disease. The symptoms of scleroderma vary greatly for each person, and the effects of scleroderma can range from very mild to life-threatening. The seriousness will depend on the parts of the body, which are affected, and the extent to which they are affected.

GAME TIME

Thursday, 7:15 p.m. at Warren High’s football field on O’Plaine Road. Sophomore game is at 5:30

Warren vs. Zion-Benton

Tickets cost $3 for adults, $2 for high school students, and $1 for youngsters.

Proceeds from the gate and a 50/50 raffle will be directed to the Scleroderma Foundation.

Updated: October 26, 2012 6:07AM



Chuckled a bit the other day when some Warren High School soccer fans expressed surprise at having to pay to watch the showdown between the Blue Devils and host Round Lake — a clash between two elite teams that ended in an always-frustrating tie.

Two thoughts about paying to watch your favorite team play:

■ While Round Lake may be the only North Suburban Conference school that charges admission to its boys soccer matches, there’s a good reason for it.

At RLHS, soccer is the sport that rules. Not football. Not basketball. Not any other sport or activity.

You have the combination of a financially challenged school district that needs funds to keep its athletic programs going, and exactly one sports team that Panther fans will gladly pay to watch play because they know the team will be successful.

It makes total sense. And total dollars, too.

■ Paying to watch the Blue Devils play Round Lake was excellent practice for this Thursday’s very special soccer match in Gurnee against Zion-Benton.

It’s a contest, slated for the Warren High School football field on O’Plaine Road, in which prep soccer fans again will be asked to pay to watch.

But for a very different reason.

At 7:15 Thursday night, The Blue Devils and Zee-Bees will square off in a varsity match that’s being dedicated to raising money to fight the disease “scleroderma” and also to remind people about the importance of organ donations (sign the back of your driver’s license please).

The idea for the fund-raiser came from Warren coach Jason Ahonen, who’s seen, up close and personal, exactly what scleroderma can do to a once-healthy individual — in this case, his dad.

He’s also seen his father improve thanks to a lung transplant — courtesy of a lung donor.

Wanting to do something for others who are fighting the disease and, at the same time, show the wonderful things that can happen through organ donation, Coach Ahonen hit upon the idea for the inaugural “Scleroderma and Organ Donor Awareness Game.”

Picking Thursday’s game against Zion-Benton was a natural fit.

First of all, Coach Ahonen cut his coaching teeth with the Zee-Bees.

Second, Mrs. Ahonen actually teaches in Zion.

And thirdly, there is no better, meaningful rivalry in high school sports in Lake County than Warren/Zion-Benton.

The communities’ share a school-district boundary; just about everyone living in one of the cities has a close relative living in the other; and the people in the two communities generally want to help each other.

They want to beat each other, of course. But they want to help each other, whenever possible.

Thursday night will be the night to help.

It’ll be three bucks for adults to watch, two bucks for high schoolers, and a dollar for the youngsters.

For your money, you’re going to see a Warren soccer team that is among the best in the state.

And you’ll see a Zion-Benton team that would like nothing better than to knock them off in front of a huge crowd.

Basically, here’s the deal.

If you can only see one high school soccer game the rest of this year, then you might want to wait until next month and catch the Warren/Round Lake rematch in the IHSA regional finals.

But if you can see TWO games the rest of the season, Thursday’s is the other one you want to see.



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