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Barrett, Pike Provide Perspective For Toledo

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Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Spring football is in high gear around the Mid-American Conference, and while every team is aiming to sharpen its skills for the upcoming 2013 football season, the University of Toledo added another mission.

The Rockets recently traveled to Mentor, Ohio, near Cleveland, to hold a practice and raise money for former UT women’s basketball player Ashlee Barrett, who is suffering with leukemia. Barrett is the fiancée of former Rockets defensive end Ben Pike.

Pike sacrificed his senior season on the football team in order to support Barrett. The team raised $7,215.15 during the practice, which was held at Mentor High School, Pike’s alma mater.

“I was blown away by the turnout,” Pike said after the event on April 5. “I didn't know what to expect. I was just happy the team was coming here. I'm very humbled by it.”

Rocket coach Matt Campbell said Pike and Barrett’s commitment to each other and fighting leukemia struck a chord with team. He said the practice was a fitting way to lend their support.

“It was a great way to pay tribute to two outstanding student-athletes from our university who have been great role models to our football team and all UT student-athletes,” Campbell said. “You can tell how much Ben means to the community here in Mentor and to the community at the University of Toledo.”

The theme for the practice was “Faith Not Fear,” which has been Barrett’s motto as she has battled her disease over the past year. Pike, who spoke to the crowd of about 500 during a break in the practice, said he was moved by the support from his hometown.

Some of Pike’s fellow teammates wanted to take another step to show their support. Seniors Zac Kerin and Vince Penza, along with juniors Greg Mancz, Josh Hendershot and Rob Lisowski, shaved their heads after practice on Thursday (April 11) and donated the hair to Locks of Love.

Locks of Love is an nationally-known nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under the age of 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

“It shows we are like a family,” said Mancz. “As teammates, we care about each other and love each other. Ben is like a brother. We would do anything for him.”

The five players have started a Facebook page and a YouCaring.com account to request donations based on the number of inches of hair cut off to Locks of Love.

“It means so much to the both of us,” Pike said of his teammates’ gesture. “For them to do that when their long hair has become a symbol for the offensive line speaks to the type of guys they are and how much a teammate means to them.  It is truly a family atmosphere that has been built on our team.  I love all those guys. They have been so supportive of Ashlee and me through this whole situation.”

Donations can be made online beginning on April 13 through a YouCaring.com account that has been established for Ashlee. Click here to donate. Donations for Ashlee can also be made though the Fifth Third Bank Ashlee Barrett Fund/Northeast Ohio 9875 Jonnycake Ridge Rd Mentor, OH.

Toledo’s Blue and Gold Scrimmage will be held Friday (April 12) in the Glass Bowl. Toledo will be honoring former coach Frank X. Lauterbur. Lauterbur coached the Rockets to a 35-0 record from 1969-71.

But there’s no double Ben Pike and Ashlee Barrett will not be too far from the Rockets' minds as well.