COC football team eats lemons for leukemia awareness

COC assistant football coach Matt Crater winces as he eats a lemon while holding 4-year-old Kailyn Anderson, who is diagnosed with high-risk leukemia. Courtesy photo

By Diego Marquez

Signal Staff Writer

When two friends started a social media campaign to raise awareness for the bone marrow-depleting disease, leukemia, they didn’t expect to get a quarter of a million views within the first day.

Chris Betancourt, 20, was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia and was given a year to live.

Betancourt’s best friend, Dillon Hill, 19, found out about the diagnosis and he immediately dropped everything and took time off from school to help and support his friend.

Trying to raise awareness, as well as cross off a couple items on his best friend’s bucket list, Hill along with Betancourt, decided to get active and create a social media post that went viral.

The campaign is directly raising awareness for bone marrow donations by calling on those who wish to partake, to record themselves taking a bite out of a raw lemon and post it online challenging someone to take part and repeat the process.

The reason they bite into lemons is a direct correlation to the same bitter taste that chemo treatments leave in your mouth.

After hundreds of thousands of views, the post has made its way over to Santa Clarita.

Now College of the Canyons football team is doing their part, as one of their own has fallen ill with the disease.

“We have someone in our COC family needing our help, so we wanted to do anything we could to raise awareness,” said head coach Ted Iacenda.

That someone is four-year old, Kailyn Anderson.

Both of Kailyn’s parents played for and are involved with COC athletics, while her mother, Lauren a former member of the Cougars softball team, went on to finish her playing career at University of Miami-Ohio.

Diagnosed with “high-risk leukemia” and in dire need of a bone marrow transplant, the COC football team created a similar social media post and made it into a competition.

“We have a competition every Thursday and Matt (Crater) had brought up the idea,” said Iacenda. “We were trying to figure out how we could incorporate the idea and came up with the scenario about the relay race.”

The final decision was to divide the football teams up into eight or nine groups and have each take a bite of a lemon as part of a relay race.

They completed and posted the competition online on Thursday, challenging the COC Associated Student Government as well as the softball team.

“We put the boys in teams and we decided that each man would eat a quarter of the lemon,” said assistant coach Matt Crater. “Then, in turn, we challenged the ASG and softball teams.”

To raise even more awareness, Canyons football is bringing “Be the Match,” a registry that swabs sample cells from volunteers and matching them with patients, to campus.

The registry usually does everything by mail, but thanks to COC football, “Be the Match” will be on campus April 25.

The times are still not set.

“We are just so humble that we can be a part of it because it’s a great cause. We not only want to help Kailyn, but all that suffer from the disease,” said Crater.

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