HOWLAND – Marisa LeBlanc took the microphone, and addressed the packed Penobscot Valley High School gymnasium. Emotional, she looked towards her cousin and pushed the words through her lips.
“We love you, and we are all here for you.”
Shortly after, she and Ryan Reed embraced, as the gym applauded for one of its favorite sons.
“He is a giver,” she said. “And he would be there for anyone. So to be on the receiving end, I think is a little difficult for Ryan.”
Reed found himself on the receiving end of hugs, cheers and donations Thursday night, as the Penobscot Valley Conference held its annual “Coaches vs. Cancer” game in his honor. Proceeds from the evening benefited Reed and his family, as he fights esophageal cancer. The PVHS girls soccer head coach was diagnosed in December, and has been the recipient of overwhelming support from the small town.
“It just shows that if you do good things, that message passes on to people,” Reed said. “And they follow that with just the devotion and love. It’s a caring, giving community.”
Colleagues and family recalled stories of Reed’s competitiveness on the pitch, and said that will carry over as he continues to battle the disease.
“He’s the most driven person I know, when it comes to sports, life, anything,” cousin and Husson women’s basketball forward Sami Ireland said. “So just being faced with this obstacle, I know for a fact he’s just going to keep going and never give up.”
Ireland would also sing the national anthem before the game, in honor of her cousin.
Reed admitted battling cancer has been taxing, but has learned to channel the drive to work towards beating it, and aims at returning to the sidelines next season.
“I’ve always preached to kids about hard work and dedication and setting your mind to something. I’ve really noticed that I need to believe that,” the 44-year-old Reed said. “I really need to listen to my own words, and find that drive. And that’s really helped me.”