Huck Cancer is the Ultimate

The Huck Cancer Ultimate Frisbee Tournament is a one-day, coed hat tournament and fundraiser for LIVESTRONG held every spring in San Francisco. Adult and youth Ultimate players from throughout the Bay Area come together to have fun and support an important cause. Erin Hartman, one of the event creators, sat down with us and talked about this fun and unique event.

Why was Huck Cancer created?

Huck Cancer was born when our good friend Eric Arons was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009. When we approached Eric about doing a fundraiser in his honor, he unselfishly (and very characteristically) turned the spotlight away from himself, and instead inspired us to create a large, fun event that would reach a wider community and help people with all kinds of cancer. Together these ideas became the Huck Cancer Ultimate Frisbee Tournament, which kicked off its first event in March 2010 and is held every spring in San Francisco. The tournament has raised more than $250,000 for LIVESTRONG since 2010.

Ultimate Frisbee is a unique way to raise the funds, why that sport?
Eric was a pillar of the San Francisco Ultimate community, and many of his friends knew each other through Ultimate. Since we enjoyed playing and a hat tournament was a familiar format, it also seemed a natural fit. Eric served on the Bay Area Disc Association Board of Directors, directed adult and youth player development clinics, and captained countless recreational Ultimate league teams.

Why did you choose for LIVESTRONG to be its beneficiary?
It was important to us to choose a charity that helps people with all kinds of cancer. We chose LIVESTRONG because they help people with very tangible issues like navigating the health care system, treatment choices, and fertility options given those treatments. In addition, LIVESTRONG encourages people with cancer and cancer survivors to remain active and stay strong, like Eric did. They offer support for caregivers and programs for children whose parents have cancer. These programs really help people with the reality and day-to-day of dealing with cancer and beyond. Having met people that LIVESTRONG has helped, we can see the impact of our efforts and the community of inspiration among its supporters and cancer survivors.
What has been the most fun part of running the tournament for so long?

So many people say Huck Cancer is their favorite day of the year. Or that the experience of playing in Huck Cancer was the best day of their lives. We have players who come back year after year and try to top their own fundraising from last year. And over the past few years, we have a new tradition where anyone who wants to share memories or stories is invited to do so at the ceremony after the tournament. It’s incredibly meaningful. One of our players got up to talk about what Huck Cancer means to him and asked for a show of hands of how many people had a loved one affected by cancer. Nearly everyone raised their hand. So many people are affected by cancer, and so many want to give back. Huck Cancer gives us a way to do that.

How have you seen the community and your friends rally around Eric’s story?
Well, first, there was rallying around Eric himself. He had so many wonderful friends to support him. He was an incredibly warm, kind, smart, charismatic guy with a generous spirit who could get you to see the silver lining. Eric didn’t let cancer slow him down much. He continued playing ultimate frisbee, kayaking, camping, bicycling, and more. Eric and his family chronicled his cancer journey on his blog 42 Staples. Eric passed away on June 13, 2013.

Since then, it’s been heartening to see how much love there still is for Eric here. Almost immediately after Eric passed, the Bay Area Disc Association commemorated Eric’s legacy by permanently renaming the San Francisco Rec. League to be the Eric Arons SF Rec. League. One goal of that was to continue Eric’s legacy of imparting inclusiveness, merriment, and good sportsmanship (which in ultimate is called “Spirit of the Game”) to his teams. Eric also had a way of seeing the silver lining. I think when some of us face challenges, we ask ourselves, “What would Eric do?”

Outside of the very strong influence Eric had on his friends, many people facing cancer who had never met Eric found his blog inspirational. I received a note from one woman who drew strength from his writing: “His blog was so real and honest that it felt like you knew him and what he was going through. I am in awe of how he handled living through his illness. There were numerous times when I was having a hard time dealing with my own life that I specifically read some of his posts again. Here I was going through a pretty standard regimen for my treatment, and he had so much more to deal with, yet he faced his with such a positive attitude and outlook. Sometimes it just gave me the kick in the pants I needed…The world will be missing one of the good guys.” We’re proud to continue Huck Cancer in his honor.

What would you like people to know about Huck Cancer that they may not already?
In addition to Ultimate being inherently fun, the Huck Cancer tournament has an added incentive for players. Anyone who raises $1000 or more gets a special headband that allows them to score two points when they catch it in the endzone (instead of just one)!

Can people of all skill level play in Huck Cancer or is it more for competitive players?
People of all skills levels can play in Huck Cancer. In fact, it’s a beginner-friendly tournament: We taught Brian Myers and Callie Atkins to play when they came up. Ultimate is easy to learn (yet hard to perfect), so it’s a great sport for everyone. Even if you’ve never thrown a disc before, you can learn to play Ultimate. Huck Cancer is an all-day tournament consisting of four games, so there is a lot of running. The focus of play in the tournament is more about Spirit of the Game (good sportsmanship) and having fun while rallying together to raise money for a good cause.

Take a look at our full calendar of fundraising events at