Rivals join forces in fight against rare illness

LUCKEY — Eastwood held its yearly fundraising match during Tuesday night’s volleyball game against
conference rival Otsego. This year Eastwood set out to ‘Pound Progeria.’
Two of just fifteen in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with Progeria, an aging disorder, reside locally.
Only 100 people total have been diagnosed in the world with the disorder. The Eastwood and Otsego
communities chose to honor those two girls Tuesday night.
Fifth grader Kaylee Halko, along with her brothers, recently transferred to Eastwood this year, and
4-year-old Carly Kudzia lives in Whitehouse. Both girls attended the volleyball match and were honored
prior to the start of the varsity game.
Natalie Decker, chair of Pound Progeria, is close with the Kudzia family and Decker’s daughter plays on
the Eastwood volleyball team. Her daughter got her friends involved and the support from the Eastwood
community began to grow. In the spring, the high school track team did a fundraiser for Progeria,
sparking the idea for the volleyball team. From there, the support for the Halko and Kudzia families
During and leading up to the Otsego match on Tuesday, Pound for Progeria sold 500 T-shirts, had 42 basket
raffles, including a television raffle, and a 50-50 raffle in which both the Eastwood and Otsego
community participated in.
“We have a great community support and Otsego, they were very willing to step up to show the support of
Kaylee and Carly,” Decker said. “That (Otsego’s involvement) is a huge part. It’s a testament to their
sportsmanship, their integrity, and just their willingness and their own community support.”
Both Eastwood head coach, Jeff Beck, and Otsego head coach, Cheryl Jones, were excited to be a part of
something larger than the game of volleyball.
“We like to find some people that we can help out in our community and make a benefit really towards
them, so we can give back to our community,” Beck said. “I think by what you’ve seen tonight, we really
do go all out and make it known we really want to help. Otsego was amazing, too, with being a part of
Jones said it is great to expose the athletes to things other than volleyball as well as spread awareness
throughout the local community.
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“I think it should happen more often,” Jones said. “So many times we think this big volleyball game is so
important, but … in the realm of the big picture of the world, like I tell the girls all of the time
when they are complaining of something, if this is the worst you have to deal with then you are truly
blessed. I believe that it’s all about service to others, our lives are to be about service to others.
It brings tears to my eyes, I just think it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing”
Jones said the crowd the fundraiser brought in helped feed into the excitement of two of the top Northern
Buckeye Conference teams squaring off.
“We were excited to do this benefit with Otsego because ever since I’ve been here … it’s been either us
or Otsego in first or second, winning the league and battling each other for a title,” Beck said. “It’s
a great rivalry but at the end of the day, these girls are great friends and there’s more to life than
volleyball and we proved that tonight.”
The funds raised from Tuesday night’s game will be sent to the Progeria Research Foundation in Boston. A
majority of this research is geared toward preventing heart disease in children diagnosed with Progeria
because that is what eventually claims their lives.
“By doing the research with Progeria and when they find a cure, it likely will have an impact on the
general population because it will impact all (those impacted by) heart disease,” Decker said.