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Cuyahoga Falls -- Black Tigers, past and present, came together emotionally on the home basketball court recently to close the chapter on 25 years of grief and to give new life to the legacy of a pair whose promise was snuffed out prematurely.
The Cuyahoga Falls community was left in shock and disbelief in February 1988 when basketball standouts Lance Hackim, a sophomore, and Kevin Humble, a junior, died in a car accident on the way home from a Cleveland Cavaliers game. Two other passengers in the car, Marc Fugarino and Bill Scelza, were paralyzed.
A quarter of a century later, Kevin's mother, Connie Humble, received a phone call from her son's friend and former teammate, Scott Davis, saying he'd had a vivid dream and felt compelled to act on it. The dream was to stage an alumni basketball game to benefit the Humble/Hackim Athletic Scholarship Fund -- and to simultaneously celebrate the teens it memorializes.
"I was overwhelmed," Connie Humble says, "after all these years I'd never even given such a thing a thought."
Bill Hodson, who also played on the Falls High basketball team with Humble and Hackim, says he and Davis "agreed that following the accident in 1988, we as former teammates, never were able to fully honor the memory of these two gifted athletes," so they set about planning an event to do just that. Judy Ray co-directed the event.
On Nov. 23, members of the 1987-88 basketball team reunited for a game against the current Falls High basketball team before an estimated 1,600 people in the Falls High gym. The event raised $10,012.23 for the scholarship fund, which has been in place since 1988 and has distributed two $1,000 scholarships each year to deserving student athletes. Hodson says the event was such a success, it will become an annual offering.
"Friday night was a culmination of six months of work in planning and preparation," Ray says, "But it was a labor of love, not only for Kevin and Lance, but also for the many, many lives they touched before and since their death, through the scholarships that have been given in their names. It was a night of celebration of their lives and a look ahead to this year's 2012-13 varsity basketball team. We wanted to fill the gym once more, give this generation of teens a view of what can happen when a community comes together to support and cheer you on."
Linc Hackim describes the evening as being "bittersweet." "It was great to see all the people from that era come back together," he says, adding, "My wife and I were very touched by the things they did to honor my son."
The proceedings included the presentation of banners to Lance and Kevin's parents, which will be permanently displayed in the gym, showcasing their sons' jerseys.
Bill Humble, who now lives in Florida, says he's "just sick" that he wasn't able to attend the event. "Nothing does away with the pain but it's just very thoughtful of the whole Cuyahoga Falls community." While Kevin was the quarterback of the football team, Bill Humble says "I think his true love was basketball."
Both Fugarino and Scelza were on hand for the game. Scelza says he and Fugarino appreciated the opportunity to say thank you to the community "for the love and support" they received during the time of their recovery.
"It was a difficult time for all of us," Scelza says, "and I think everybody needed to get back together to celebrate the lives of our friends and to grow the scholarship that lives on in their memory."
"Kevin was my best friend," Fugarino says, "but a lot of people would probably say that because he had that effect on people. Lance had just moved to the Falls and so I only knew him briefly, but we were fast on our way to becoming great friends as well."
"Both of these young men were amazing athletes but more importantly, great people," according to Fugarino. "Their lives were tragically cut short and their loss left a mark on the entire Cuyahoga Falls community. The fundraiser was an amazing and emotional night where we got a chance to remember them and celebrate their lives and to let their families know that we have not forgotten them."
Fugarino says the event was something he and Scelza needed as well.
"We never got a chance to really say goodbye to our friends," Fugarino acknowledges, "because we were dealing with our own injuries So this night was so very special to both of us, personally, and also a long overdue celebration of what Kevin and Lance meant to us, to Cuyahoga Falls High School and the entire Falls community."
"Each time a scholarship is bestowed in Lance and Kevin's name, their spirit and love of the game lives on."
Contributions to the Humble/Hackim Scholarship fund. may be mailed to: Attn: Cuyahoga Falls High School Athletic Department, 2300 Fourth St., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio 44221. To help support The 12-23 Classic, the annual event to benefit The Humble/Hackim Scholarship Fund, contributions may be mailed to: Cuyahoga Falls High Schools 12-23 Classic, Attn: Mrs. Judy Ray, 2300 Fourth St., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio 44221.