A dodgeball tournament is one way to stoke the competitive spirit between Douglas County’s deputies and firefighters.
For sheriff’s Sgt. Bernadette Smith, such an event is an opportunity to raise money for the family of an investigator whose wife is undergoing cancer treatment.
Smith is organizing a Feb. 21 dodgeball tournament to benefit Elisa Storke, 33, wife of sheriff’s Investigator Jon Storke, who is battling stage 4 metastatic melanoma.
The Storkes, who live in Reno, are the parents of 9-month-old Dylan. Jon Storke was raised in Carson Valley and has been with the sheriff’s office for 12 years.
Smith has set a lofty goal for the tournament. She’s hoping to raise enough money to prepay all of Dylan’s tuition at the University of Nevada, Reno, or at least make a dent in it.
“My peace is to give her (Elisa) peace right now to know her child’s education is taken care of,” Smith said.
And, the tournament gives Douglas County’s emergency personnel a chance to square off.
“First, I thought I would have two 10-person teams, but since word got out, there’s been a lot of response. (Sgt.) Ron Elges said the SWAT team wanted to have their own team,” Smith said.
Players, who pay $20 per person, are restricted to members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Protective Association, the East Fork Professional Firefighters Association, their spouses, and county dispatchers, who can play on either side.
“Everybody at work loves dodgeball, and the competitive spirit is alive and well at the fire department and the sheriff’s office,” Smith said. “This event will be fun, and matches a great need.”
Retired DCSO Undersheriff Bob Rudnick and his wife Denise paid half the insurance cost to host the event, and the deputies’ association paid the other half.
There is no cost to organizers to use Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.
Smith is looking for sponsors to provide T-shirts for the teams; and to donate hot dogs and drinks for a food concession.
For the Storkes, the tournament is a continuation of all the support they’ve received in Douglas County and Northern Nevada.
In addition to being the mother of a busy 9-month-old, Elisa Storke is three classes away from earning her doctorate at University of Nevada, Reno, where she is a full-time instructor in the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages program.
“I have to say I am feeling a little bit stronger every day, that’s good news to report,” Storke said Thursday. “Right now I am in the first line of targeted therapy, a pill-based type of chemotherapy. Luckily, with all the support, we’ve been able to purchase a month’s supply of medication,” she said.
Storke takes two different pills. One 30-day supply costs $12,000; the other is $10,000 per month.
The Storkes’ insurance requires them to pay 40 percent of the cost.
She said she will take the pills until her body builds up resistance to their effectiveness. The next step will be immunotherapy that will require her to travel to San Francisco every two weeks for injections where she is under treatment at the Melanoma Center of the University of California, San Francisco.
The Storkes recently had Dylan tested.
“I mentioned my situation with the cancer to my pediatrician, that I was worried the cancer could have passed to him during pregnancy. She did research and learned that melanoma is one of the few cancers you can pass,” she said.
Storke said the baby’s lungs, liver and blood have been checked without negative results.
“We’re still waiting for ultrasound, but so far he’s passed all his tests. It’s a big weight off our chests,” she said, describing her little boy as “chatting up a storm, and recently mobile.”
The Storkes plan to attend the dodgeball tournament at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.
“I just want to thank everyone sincerely from the bottom of my heart. Our family will be eternally grateful for all the support. It’s just amazing. People are sending us dinners. It helps out so much. Jon gets so much support at work. It makes me very happy,” she said.
Storke was diagnosed in November with a recurrence of melanoma that she first contracted in 2002. She had a mole on her back removed and was told the cancer was gone.
She followed up the first treatment with twice-yearly checkups, only to be told in November the cancer had returned.
“Honestly, when something like this happens to you, you go through every stage and emotion: Shock, disbelief, I was terrified. But I have received such an outpouring of support, I would have never imagined. It changed my outlook, and makes me feel uplifted and hopeful. It makes me stronger.”
Tickets for the tournament are $20 per family, or $10 for individuals; they will be available Tuesday at the sheriff’s office; East Fork, and The Record-Courier.
They also will be sold at the door.
Anyone who can’t attend, but would like to drop off a donation for the Storkes may bring it to one of those locations.