2013-04-26 / People

Community rallies behind coach

Neighbors
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Susan Hellier said she couldn’t find a parking spot at the South Portland VFW when she drove up before “Tedstock,” a November fundraiser for her husband Ted, who was diagnosed with an invasive form of cancer last summer. From left: Susan Hellier, T-Moe Hellier, a sophomore at South Portland High School, Ted Hellier, and Eliza Hellier, a freshman at Lasell College. (Kathy Amoroso courtesy photo) Susan Hellier said she couldn’t find a parking spot at the South Portland VFW when she drove up before “Tedstock,” a November fundraiser for her husband Ted, who was diagnosed with an invasive form of cancer last summer. From left: Susan Hellier, T-Moe Hellier, a sophomore at South Portland High School, Ted Hellier, and Eliza Hellier, a freshman at Lasell College. (Kathy Amoroso courtesy photo) Moments after the South Portland High School lacrosse team defeated Marshwood in the Red Riots first game of the 2013 season on Satuday, April 13, senior captain Cody Munson abruptly left the field, an unusual move just after a game has ended.

Munson and two other team captains went into the crowd to find Ted Hellier, a youth lacrosse coach in South Portland who was diagnosed with cancer in June.

Hellier had received chemotherapy treatment less than a week before the game, but he was able to speak with the team in the locker room before they took the field. After the win, the captains wheeled Hellier down to the field to celebrate with the Red Riots. He has coached youth lacrosse for more than a decade in South Portland, since his son T-Moe, now a sophomore, was in fourth grade. He said he coached most of the year’s varsity players when they were in elementary school.

“They’re kind of like my boys,” Hellier said. “I really enjoy following them.”

T-Moe (whose name is actually Edward Marley, but nobody calls him that) is starting for the Red Riots in goal this year.South Portland started the year on a three game win streak, defeating Marshwood, Gorham and Cheverus, before falling 9-8 at Scarborough, the three time defending Class A state champions.

Hellier continued coaching third- and fourth-grade youth lacrosse each year until last season, when he decided to take time off to watch his daughter Eliza play her senior season with the Cheverus High School girls’ lacrosse team. After graduation, Eliza moved on to Lasell College in Massachusetts, where she walked on to the lacrosse team as a freshman.

On the wall across the room from the bed where Hellier sits and from the bedside table covered with bottles of medication, the Helliers have hung a plaque naming him the 2012 Maine Recreation and Parks Association Citizen Volunteer of the Year. The association gives the award annually to a community volunteer who“contributes to the well-being of recreation” in Maine.

Hellier received the award at a ceremony on April 9 at the Holiday Inn By The Bay in Portland for his work fostering and encouraging a love of lacrosse among young people in the community, including his son. Ted’s wife, Susan Hellier, said T-Moe originally wanted to play baseball.

“He used to get mad at Ted cause they would go play catch and Ted would use his lacrosse stick and T-Moe would use his glove,” she said.

Sometime around fourth grade, Susan said a switch was flipped, and T-Moe changed his mind. He has been a lacrosse player ever since.

Early last summer, Ted said he went to the doctor because his stomach was bugging him. After a colonoscopy, doctors found a tumor. After a CAT Scan, Ted was told the cancer was more widespread. Doctors aren’t sure where it started, but the disease has spread to his lungs, lymph nodes and other areas.

At the end of November, six months after Ted was diagnosed and just after a chemotherapy treatment, friends and community members put on “Tedstock,” a fundraiser event at the South Portland VFW. Ted said he was initially hesitant and Susan thought her husband would never go for it.

“I was thinking, what do I need a fundraiser for? I have everything I need,” Ted said.

But when he arrived at the event with varsity lacrosse coach Tom Fiorini, Ted said he was “shellshocked” by the support.

“I cry every time I think about it,” added Susan. “This is a heck of a place. We knew it already, but, let me put it this way, I drove up at 6:30 (to the VFW), and there was nowhere to park.”

Before his chemotherapy treatments started, Ted wore a trademark mustache that made him instantly recognizable in the community. At Tedstock, friends and family brought fake mustaches to pose in photos. The event also included a silent auction. Malcolm Chase, a professional lacrosse player with the Boston Rockhoppers and native Mainer, dialed in via Skype to offer game-worn memorabilia and other items.

Chase’s involvement has gone further than the event, according to Ted. In October, Chase reached out to Matt Sauri of Wimmer Solutions, a company that sponsors teams at an annual lacrosse tournament in Hawaii. Instead of donating money for the 2012 tournament to a charity, Sauri set up a 529 college savings plan for both T-Moe and Eliza. Ted said he was astonished by the kindness not only of friends, but strangers who heard his story.

“I know Malcolm. I don’t know the rest of these guys,” Ted said.

This summer, the annual South Portland Lacrosse Tournament will be renamed the Ted Hellier Lacrosse Festival. The tournament will feature junior varsity and middle school boys and girls lacrosse teams from around the state on Saturday, June 1 at the Wainwright Field Athletic Complex in South Portland. Interested sponsors are encouraged to contact Rob Soucy at robsoucy@portharbormarine.com.

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