More than 50 former Mountain View basketball players came back to campus this weekend, playing alumni games and raising funds for the Marisa Ann Gallego Foundation, named for the Mountain Lion player who lost her battle with leukemia in 2008.
Young men and women who played at the school over the past 20 years – 1989 through 2009 – competed in a tournament structure. Local basketball officials donated their time.
The tournament raised $1,500 for the foundation, which will provide a $1,500 scholarship in her name to a Mountain View girls basketball player this year, according to boys coach Mike Parillo and girls coach Niki Melchiori.
Admissions and proceeds from the snack bar, and weekend alumni registration generated money for the scholarship.
"When we woke up the next day, and even before we found out how much we raised, we had a good feeling," Parillo said. His family is close with the Gallegos. He knew Marisa as a basketball player, and as the girlfriend of his son Garrett, a Mountain View alum who played this weekend, and is now a student at the University of Arizona. The Parillo family remains involved with the foundation.
"It's a nice deal to be able to help them, and they're willing to open the doors and try to help raise money for University Medical Center cancer research," Parillo said. "They were real excited about the amount of money we raised to give a scholarship."
Before games began, Marisa's parents Lorie and Delbert, sister Michelle and brother David were introduced.
"We explained to the players that Marisa was just like them, loved basketball, and was anxious to play on the varsity team when she was diagnosed with leukemia," Parillo said. "Her parents wanted to share her love of basketball with the players by honoring an MV player with a scholarship in her name." Michelle spoke to the crowd about the foundation, and what it is doing to promote awareness for childhood leukemia and raising money for UMC cancer research.
Former players from all walks of life, and several ages, came back to Mountain View to play ball. Among them were recent grad Aaron Anderson, now a student-athlete at Central Arizona College; Kevin Corner, principal of Cross Middle School; Justin Wixon, forensics and marine biology teacher at MVHS; and Jennifer Hoffman (Wood), chief financial officer and human resources director for Contact One Call Center. Daniel Farmer is a mechanical engineer with Raytheon Missile Systems. Ernie Felix is a Tucson Fire Department firefighter. Colin Spangenberg is a U.S. Army Infantry sniper. Several are students today.
The 1999-2001 group beat the "oldest" alums, from 1990-1991, for the championship. The '90-'91 bunch played and beat two younger teams to reach the finals, which had the finals crowd of about 300 fans "rooting for the old-timers," Parillo said.
Everyone was rooting for the research money, and funds to provide a scholarship.
Marisa Ann Gallego was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia on May 29, 2007. The fast-advancing cancer of the blood and bone marrow required chemotherapy, and left Marisa subject to infections. The cancer entered remission that winter, and those who spent time with her then found a "radiant child with a smile on her face and a deep appreciation for life, faith, and love of her family," her family said.
In February 2008, the cancer had returned, and Marissa underwent further chemotherapy. A blood cord transplant was planned, but her heart was failing, and she died on April 18, 2008, at age 16.
"Marisa was a very special young lady who touched the lives of all those she met," family and friends agree. "Even with all of the pain she endured, she always had enough strength to give a smile to everyone that would come her way."
Parillo sensed the alumni players and crowd felt "a strong sense of purpose for being there and participating in this special event." He hopes to keep it going at least every other year.