Sacred Heart Academy and Kellenberg raise $1,200 for the Mary Ruchalski Foundation


The Kellenberg Memorial High School Firebirds and Sacred Heart Academy Lady Spartans teamed up with the Mary Ruchalski Foundation for a second consecutive year to host its charity basketball game between the two Catholic high school teams.

Brie Eliwood and Tricia Kiernan, two Sacred Heart Academy parents, organized this year’s event, which helped raise $1,200 for the Mary Ruchalski Foundation.

“The Play 4 Mary game between Sacred Heart Academy and Kellenberg varsity girls’ basketball teams has become a special tradition for our community,” Eliwood said.

The Mary Ruchalski Foundation was created in 2019, in memory of Mary Ruchalski, a talented multisport athlete and 12-year-old student at St. Agnes Cathedral School in Rockville Centre, who died in March 2018 of rhabdomyosarcoma.

“It was a special night honoring one of my daughter’s childhood friends, who unfortunately lost her battle with cancer,” Kiernan said, “and helped raise money for the wonderful foundation that her family created.”

Thanks to the foundation, more than half-a-million dollars have been raised for cancer research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory toward developing a new drug to help fight this rare form of pediatric cancer.

Play 4 Mary is a growing movement where younger athletes can get involved by hosting charity events and clinics involving sports that Mary had participated in — including basketball, lacrosse, softball, soccer and swimming — with the goal of raising awareness and funds for pediatric cancer.

“I’m so pleased with the way Play 4 Mary has taken off,” Mary’s mother, Carol Ruchalski, said. “The kids are really the ones initiating it.”

During the game, students from both Sacred Heart and Kellenberg hosted a bake sale to help raise money for the Mary Ruchalski Foundation, and at halftime, the two teams recognized Mary by inviting the kids with the fourth- and fifth-grade St. Agnes CYO basketball team onto the court for a friendly exhibition.

“It was a great way to connect the younger generation with the current generation of high school players,” Eliwood said. “A lot of the girls on both teams played for St. Agnes CYO and knew of Mary Ruchalski.”

The two teams put up a valiant effort, but in the end it was the Sacred Heart Academy Lady Spartans that went on to win the game 49 – 38 over Kellenberg.

“Thank you to everyone involved in making our Play 4 Mary game another incredible evening,” Sacred Heart Academy Head Coach Bob Speck said in an email. “Her beautiful, caring and endearing spirit is memorialized by your selfless devotion of time and commitment to planning such a special event, and our team and the SHA Community are forever grateful.”

The Play 4 Mary campaign will return in the summer with a lacrosse clinic for boys and girls expected sometime in June. For more information on the foundation and future events, visit