NAUGATUCK — A simple show of support from City Hill Middle School girls basketball players for their coach has grown into something much larger.
In 2015, City Hill girls basketball coach Fred Scheithe was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemo treatments and had surgery to remove a tumor.
In October, Scheithe received news that the cancer had returned, and he began chemo therapy again shortly after the start of the basketball season.
“I explained to the kids that I might be a little low after the treatment or might be tired,” said Scheithe, a retired teacher who taught in the Naugatuck school system for 39 years. “These kids were inspirational with the practice. They said, ‘Don’t worry, we know the drills, we will run the show.’”
The team decided to do more than just step up their game at practice. Spearheaded by eighth-grader Kaylee Jackson, the players chose to make T-shirts to show their support for their coach.
After one of the team’s games, Scheithe said he turned around to see all the players were wearing T-shirts that read “Scheithe Strong” on the front.
“You get a little emotional when you see something like this. I had no idea they were doing this. This was decided by the kids. They did it to show their support,” said Scheithe, who has coached in Naugatuck schools for 36 years.
After the girls wore the shirts to school and a photo of the team wearing the shirts was posted on Facebook, Scheithe said he began receiving requests from friends, family, and former students and athletes for the shirts.
Soon after the requests started to come from people he didn’t know.
Scheithe said they decided to sell the shirts, but only if the proceeds went to someone, other than him, in need of help.
“I don’t want any profit. I don’t want a single penny,” Scheithe said.
Scheithe said he’s been working with the nurses and guidance department at City Hill to see if there is an ill student or a family that has an ill parent that needs the money.
“I am going to let them come up with people and then we will sit down as a group and decide who is in the most need. Once we decide, 100 percent of the profits will be going to that person,” Scheithe said.
The donation is going to come from the girls basketball team because the players were the ones who came up with the idea for the shirts.
The shirts are available for $20 each. Anyone who wants a shirt can mail information on the number of shirts and the sizes needed along with a check payable to Jeanne Scheithe to 243 Millville Ave., Naugatuck, CT 06770.
Scheithe said he is going to begin his second round of chemotherapy on Friday and, immediately afterwards, will head to his team’s basketball game to coach.
“Kids are amazing. When you need support they are the first ones who will step up for you, Scheithe said. “It makes everything so much easier, being greeted by a bunch of kids that have smiles on their faces.”
Scheithe said the team’s act of kindness is shaping up to have large positive impact.
“They have no idea what they started. They don’t even realize what they’ve done by making simple T-shirts,” Scheithe said.