Rivalry for the right reason


Photo by: Alex Rozbicki

A rivalry basketball game against the Rio Mesa Spartans was motivated by more than the usual competition.

The Rio Mesa Spartans and Cam High Scorpions basketball teams went head to head at Rio Mesa High School on Saturday, Jan. 10, but not as league rivals.

The games were held as part of the “Ball it up for Cancer” event, a fundraiser for the Oxnard and Camarillo’s Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) Centers for Family Living account. Their program is dedicated to providing financial aid to those who can’t afford to pay for mammograms or PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) testing.

T-shirts, sweaters, other apparel, and snacks were being sold inside the gym, while the silent auction outside provided the most revenue for the fundraiser. Two-sevenths of the proceeds from the ticket sales went toward the fundraiser. The Penny War between Cam High and Rio Mesa High was also a major contributor to the cause.

Mr. Chris Ruffinelli, Rio Mesa boys varsity basketball coach, started the annual fundraiser seven years ago. The ultimate goal of Ruffinelli and the others involved with the event is to raise $10,000 for the cause. They have earned $3,000 since last year.

According to Ruffinelli, the five year anniversary of the fundraiser was the most successful in earnings, raising about $6000 in donations.

Most of the committee that runs the “Ball it Up for Cancer” event consists of former players’ parents who have kept in contact with Ruffinelli since he started the fundraiser.  “Without volunteers, [the fundraiser] wouldn’t be what it is today,” he said.

Ruffinelli believes it is important for today’s youth to do something selfless.”Players should give back to the community,” he said.

Ruffinelli also said that the idea of giving back is what initially inspired him to start the fundraiser. In 2008, the mother of a former member of Ruffinelli’s basketball team was diagnosed with cancer, and a team of parents and teachers wanted to help the family. Ultimately, they decided that the Cam High and Rio Mesa basketball teams should work together to meet a common goal. The idea was approved by Mike Smith, former Cam High athletic director.

Concerning the rivalry between Cam High and Rio Mesa, Ruffinelli said they did a great job of working together for a better cause. “Most of the rivalry is up in the stands and has nothing to do with the players,” he said.”Some of the players even go to the same gyms and are friendly towards one another.”

In 2012, eight students from both Rio Mesa and Cam High were awarded by CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) for their involvement in the “Ball it Up for Cancer” event and were invited to a ceremony at the Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner. They were also each awarded with banners that now hang in the gymnasiums of the two schools.