Extra Effort: ‘Team Tessa’ Rallying for Dunlap Teen Fighting Cancer

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Cory Hynyk’s pregame speech to his Peoria Christian soccer team were straight and to the point.

“We’re competing with Dunlap tonight, not against them but with them,” Hynek said. “For something bigger than ourselves.”

Team Tessa is growing by the day.

When Peoria Christian hosted Dunlap in soccer Saturday night, every player and coach wore a shirt supporting Dunlap sophomore Tessa Sutton.

“What the Suttons are going through, none of us would want to be in that situation,” Hynek said. “We know she loves soccer, still does.”

Tessa is in Memphis at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital undergoing treatments for childhood cancer. She was diagnosed towards the end of her freshman soccer season at Dunlap this spring.

Since then the soccer community has rallied around her. In some cases, coaches and friends have shaved their heads and donated hair.

Her club soccer team sent her sending her care packages with pictures of her teammates wearing bracelets to support her fight.

The Dunlap-PCS game Saturday raised $3,200 for the Sutton family through donations and t-shirt sales. The fundraisers are helping the Sutton family while it stays in Tennessee for the duration of Tessa’s cancer treatments.

Ashley Gleason/Sutton family friend: “The soccer community has been incredible,” said family friend Ashley Gleason, who is overseeing some the Team Tessa t-shirt sales. “I have people I don’t know, reaching out all the time to ask if they can buy shirts for something. It’s been great.”

Dunlap won the soccer game 4-0 but everyone agrees there were no losers that night.

“That’s the great thing about high school sports. Winning is great but when you have a community, family that cares about each other, you lift each other up and do what you can for each other,” said Dunlap coach Allan Hanson. “I think that’s the biggest lesson for these kids. Winning is great but beating cancer is the ultimate victory. It’s bigger than us.”

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