Dragoon

East Lincoln soccer coach Jason Dragoon (left) helped organize the inaugural tournament that supports those fighting cancer. 

1. This year marks the 12th installment

East Lincoln High School organized the inaugural tournament in 2007 to raise money for cancer research in support of Andy Kosmala. Kosmala, whose older sister played on the Lady Mustangs soccer team at the time, was battling terminal brain cancer. While the tournament will be played for the 12th time this year, it’s being billed as the 11th annual under the memorial name as Kosmala passed away in the year following the inaugural event. Miranda Eckard, an East Lincoln student who was diagnosed with cancer just two weeks into her freshman year, had her name added to the event after succumbing to her disease in 2014.

2. The proceeds now support individual patients

While Kosmala lost his battle, his fight has inspired a tournament that has helped sponsor 10 other members of the East Lincoln community through their battles with various forms of cancer. All of the proceeds raised through the tournament during its initial two years were donated to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, but for the last decade the money raised has been used to make a direct impact locally. While not all of those sponsored through the tournament have survived, the success of those who have has served as an inspiration to continue raising these funds each year. In total, the tournament has raised more than $33,000 over the past decade.

3. The tournament will honor Tommy Bowen

A portion of the proceeds raised through this year’s tournament will be gifted to the family of Tommy Bowen, a Denver resident who passed away in October at the age of 64. Bowen was married to his wife, Michele, for 34 years, and the couple had four sons – Brandon, Josh, Cole and Brett – all of whom graduated from East Lincoln. Bowen was a regular at East Lincoln sporting events, dedicating the time to watch his sons on the soccer pitch and the football field. He remained involved even after all of his children had graduated by working in the pressbox for East Lincoln home games.

4. Amber Parker will be honored as well

The remaining half of the funds raised through this year’s tournament will be given to the family of Amber Parker, a 2012 graduate of East Lincoln who passed away in November after a monthslong battle with a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer. Parker was an honor student during her time as a Mustang, and she was a member of the cheerleading squad in high school and at Western Carolina University. In addition to working for Marriott Hotels in Charlotte, Parker was also coaching the junior varsity cheer squad at East Lincoln at the time of her diagnosis.

5. The tournament wraps up Thursday, March 7

The Andy Kosmala and Miranda Eckard Memorial Tournament consists of four teams each year, with four games played over two days at East Lincoln. The tournament began Wednesday, March 6, with a game between Central Academy of Technology & Arts (CATA) and West Iredell followed by East Lincoln’s game against East Rutherford. Thursday’s games are scheduled to begin with the consolation final at 5 p.m. followed by the championship game between East Lincoln and CATA at 7 p.m. All fans and players will gather on the home side of the stadium in between Thursday’s matches to honor Bowen and Parker. Those planning to attend are encouraged to arrive prior to 6:20 p.m. All proceeds from the gate and concessions, as well as any other donations, will be split and given directly to each family.

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