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Princesses battling firefighters in game
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The Lathrop Manteca Firefighters better get their basketball skills honed by next weekend.

Because they’re going to be taking on a team of – princesses?

As part of a joint fundraiser between Lathrop’s Relay for Life Committee and the Olivia Sowers College Fund, the Tony Sowers Memorial Basketball Game has been set for Sunday, Jan. 17, at 3 p.m. inside of the Scott Brooks Gymnasium at the Lathrop Community Center.

And the community’s bravest will be playing a group of local college-aged athletes will take the court dressed as the most popular Disney Princess characters in a nod to Olivia Sowers – the young girl who lost her father Tony, a Lathrop Manteca Firefighter, several years ago after a very aggressive form of cancer claimed his life at a young age.

Both Relay for Life and the Sowers family will split the proceeds – which will be generated by the $3 admission.

“It’s really a grassroots community effort to make this happen this year and it’s great that people are willing to step up and help with a great cause,” said Relay for Life Event Chair Tamara Edwards. “I think the fire department is really excited not just because we all hate cancer, but because there’s a little girl who lost her dad and this is a way to remember him.

“The trophy that has the winning team’s name engraved on it goes home with her every year and she keeps in her bedroom. And we’re hoping that with the princess theme, a lot more people will be willing to come out and support this and make a difference in the life of this family and a lot of other families who are affected by cancer.”

According to Edwards, the firefighters will be playing against all of the famous Disney princesses – Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Leia, Snow White, Tiana and Jasmine – and the girls that will be taking the court representing the characters, being organized by a MJC softball player that is a friend of her family, will all wear tutus and specially-made t-shirts advertising who they’re supposed to be representing.

And Olivia Sowers will join her big heroes on the bench with a t-shirt of her own, representing Rapunzel. She’ll have a tiara and a tutu of her own.

Even though Edwards was having a hard time finding a suitable team to make the game a reality – other city groups declined to participate this year – she was thrilled to see people step up to the challenge and make the dream of a little girl come true.

“I was talking to a friend of mine and I told her it was just her and I and we were going to have to play the fire team ourselves because there was no way that this wasn’t going to happen,” Edwards said. “But that didn’t have to happen, and now I’m hoping that residents will bring out their children a half-an-hour before the game so that they can take pictures and get autographs from all of their favorite princesses.

“This isn’t really a big fundraiser for us in terms of Relay – it’s more of a chance to get the message out there and help support a local family,” Edwards said. “We’re glad that it’s finally coming to fruition this year.”