As the Salk Middle School eighth grade girls soccer team took the field for their game against Merrick this past Thursday, something was noticeably different.
Instead of wearing their traditional home uniforms, the Levittown-based team, which features many players from Wantagh and Seaford, was outfitted in special T-shirts to raise awareness for the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance in honor of Ally Spear, a 10-year-old local resident who suffers from the disease.
The T-shirts were custom designed by eighth grade student and soccer player Erin Vaughan Ware of Seaford. The sale of the T-shirts to students and their families, as well as donations from generous businesses and foundations from around the area, helped raise $1,000 for the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.
“I am so proud of her,” Erin’s mother Kathleen Vaughan Ware said. “She has a really good heart and she was really moved and affected when she met with Ally’s parents.”
Vaughan Ware got the inspiration for the T-shirts while out to dinner after a game with her father at Jackie Reilly’s Restaurant in Bethpage. While she was there, a fundraiser was going on for Ally at the same time.
Curious as to what was going on, Vaughan Ware met with Ally’s parents, Robert and Denise Spear, and they explained what was happening and what the disease was.
“I didn’t even know of the disease so I wanted my school to know about it and then to get it popular in my town,” she said.
After deciding that she wanted to do something, Vaughan Ware met with Salk head coach Maureen Danielo, who was very receptive and supportive of the idea. Vaughan Ware then got to work on the T-shirt design.
The T-shirts were navy blue with a custom designed yellow Salk Soccer and Tuberous Sclerosis logo. According to Vaughan Ware, there was special significance behind the colors she chose.
“I wanted to do blue and yellow because blue is the color of Tuberous Sclerosis and yellow is my favorite color,” she said. “I think Ally likes the color yellow too, so I wanted to go like that.”
Tuberous Sclerosis is a “genetic disorder that causes tumors to form in many different organs, primarily in the brain, eyes, heart, kidney, skin and lungs,” according to the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance’s website. Some symptoms of Tuberous Sclerosis are developmental delay, mental retardation and autism.
Ally and her family were in attendance at the game on Thursday, rooting on Erin and her special T-shirt clad teammates from the sideline.
“She’s not infected and she doesn’t know anyone else with Tuberous Sclerosis,” Ally’s father Robert Spear said. “For someone to take it on herself to do a campaign like this, it’s heart warming. It gives you faith in people out there, absolutely.”
They must have brought the team some good luck as the Salk girls went on to win by the final score of 2-0. After the game, Coach Danielo was proud of her team and believed that Ally’s presence definitely motivated the team to win.
“It makes me really proud as a coach that the girls not only are successful on the field, but that they care about other people and they look for ways to help other people,” Danielo said.
Anyone interested in learning more about, raising awareness for or donating money to Tuberous Sclerosis can visit www.tsalliance.org.