MARQUETTE, MICH. - The Upper Michigan Brain Tumor Center (UMBTC) in Marquette, Mich. has awarded Ilwaco's Ashley Tapio and her Lady Fishermen basketball team their 2010 Individual Spirit Award and Team Karry Award. Tapio and her teammates put on a basketball clinic, Hoops for Brain Cancer, Feb. 15 for second through sixth graders with the help of coach Ned Bittner. The camp was the main focus of Tapio's senior project.

Besides teaching basketball skills, Bittner and Tapio also discussed brain cancer advocacy during the camp as Tapio's grandmother Phyllis Kuusisto and Bittner's mother-in-law Linda Cheuvrant both suffered from the disease. Cheuvrant has sinced passed away from the cancer.

The UMBTC website states, "The John Karry Award is the highest honor bestowed by the UMBTC. It is named for John Karry. John completed the 40-mile bike ride on a heavy, old steel bike in the cold and damp of our inaugural Hope Starts Here Challenge. Two days later he was in the operating room undergoing his third operation for a recurrent malignant brain tumor. John's courage and spirit and never-quit attitude inspired us then as it does now. The Karry award is given to the individual and team or group that most inspires our patients, families and staff."

The site explains, "Ashley Tapio is a senior at Ilwaco High School in Washington state and captain of her basketball team. Her grandmother, Phyllis Kuusisto, lives in the Keweenaw. In 2009, Phyllis was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme. Ashley knew instantly that for her senior project she would honor her grandmother by raising funds and awareness for brain cancer research and treatment."

During the basketball season, Tapio and her team wore special T-shirts, and there were announcements and banners throughout the high school. Through her efforts and the generosity of the Ilwaco community over $700 was raised for UMBTC research.

UMBTC officials say, "We are very proud of Ashley and her team for their very extraordinary support of Phyllis, Linda and the UMBTC. And we hope that the Hoops for Brain Cancer basketball camp at Ilwaco High School continues and that it grows for many years to come."

A plaque will hang in the UMBTC neuroscience building with Tapio's and the Lady Fishermen's names proudly displayed. UMBTC's Rich Rovin told Tapio, "One day we hope to see you in person. The winners of this award serve as an inspiration to our patients, families and staff."

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