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At the Randolph/Mendham varsity football game, in late September, Mendham held its second-annual Big Play for Big Bucks program. This new tradition enables the community to come together in support of a person in need. This year Sebastian Quinn was an obvious recipient. Sebastian is a freshman football player battling Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for a dismaying second time.

Sebastian was initially diagnosed during his eighth grade year at which time he underwent treatments, which they’d hoped would keep the cancer at bay. Sebastian returned to his life, attending summer practices and lifting workouts with the freshman football team until he learned the cancer had returned.

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Sebastian walks out as honorary varsity captain for his last appearance on the field before his transplant (photo edited by Aakash Kanjani).

It was a “devastating blow” to the freshmen football team, according to team mother Lori Sica. Sebastian is “well loved” and “a symbol of hope and perseverance” for the boys, she explains. So when the news came that Sebastian would need to undergo a bone marrow transplant, the boys wanted—indeed, needed—to do something to help.

Big Plays for Big Bucks goes something like this: during a game, when the varsity team has a big play a pink bucket is passed through the crowd for donations. Ones, fives, tens, and even twenties are tossed into the container in the spirit of celebration and support. Touchdowns, interceptions, and PATs are among those that the Mendham announcer declare as “another big play for big bucks.”

Lori Sica explains, “Mendham is a very giving community. When there is a need, we are there.”

The day of the event–a home football game for the varsity squad–the entire freshman team showed up to help.  At the start of the game, Sebastian ran through the banner with the varsity players behind him. He was also made an honorary captain and walked out to meet the ref.

Sebastian’s first battle with cancer came in middle school. His longtime teammate and friend George Serafin describes the days when Sebastian had to go to the hospital, to doctors, and for treatments. “The cancer got in the way of our friendship sometimes,” says Serafin. So Serafin stopped by Sebastian house as often as he could. And, Serafin says, he wasn’t the only person in Sebastian’s corner.

Black River Middle School principal Robert Mullen was “a huge support.” Mullen made sure Sebastian had an iPad, and that his classroom robot was working, which helped to keep Sebastian included in school. Mullen also helped with fund raising, sponsoring a staff/student basketball game for Sebastian. Serafin says about his principal, “he inspired everyone. Everyone wanted to be as involved as Mr. Mullen.”

When the cancer returned, at the start of Sebastian’s freshman year, Sebastian opted for a more difficult route for receiving medications that would then allow him to play football as much as possible before the inevitable bone marrow transplant. Freshman LB/FB Eric Schmeal played alongside Sebastian through most of grade school and into high school, supporting Sebastian through both appearances of cancer. “Seeing him on the field motivates everyone,” Schmeal explains about his teammate’s effect on the program. This season, which was dedicated to Sebastian, Schmeal wore his stricken teammate’s number 55 on his helmet.

The good news? Sebastian has a perfect match for bone marrow. Sebastian’s brother Zach is a senior at Mendham who will provide the stem cells that will aid in the success of Sebastian’s aggressive treatments.

Zach wrestled on the Mendham team and according to teammate Tim Byrne he was “a hard worker, never complained, always smiling and laughing” which may make him not only a perfect bone marrow match but also the perfect person for the selfless act.


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Zach Quinn is a perfect match for his brother and donated bone marrow that might save his brother’s life. He and Tim Byrne were wrestling teammates (photo edited by Aakash Kanjani).

Serafin’s mother put together a meal plan for Sebastian’s family of six that includes three months of dinners while Sebastian is undergoing treatment. If you’d like to help the Quinn family, you can sign up to bring a meal by clicking HERE.

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