Tourney raises money for Fairfield senior
Fairfield High School raised $840 Friday for a student who is recovering from heart surgery.
Fairfield High School senior Jennifer Clements underwent open-heart surgery Tuesday at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. Students and faculty at the high school wanted to show their care for Clements, so they organized a three-on-three basketball tournament to raise money for their friend and classmate.
The tournament was held during eighth-hour classes Friday afternoon. Students could pay $3 or more to skip their eighth-hour class to watch or participate in the tournament.
Tyler Miklo, high school history teacher and boys’ basketball coach, helped put the tournament together. He said 60 people participated on 16 teams, which included one team of teachers and another team of school administrators. More than 100 people paid just to watch the action.
In addition to the tournament, students also paid to participate in a three-point shooting contest and a half-court shot contest. Students filled out a bracket Friday morning in which they picked which teams would advance in the tournament.
“All the money we raised will go toward gift cards for Jennifer, to help with the recovery,” Miklo said.
Fairfield High School principal Aaron Becker said not just the administration but the faculty and student body wanted to do something to show their appreciation for Clements.
“It’s a reflection on the kids and staff we have here at Fairfield High School,” he said. “We help others in times of need. Jennifer has been a part of the basketball program and has been a great student. We wanted to do something in her honor as she was going through her surgery.”
Clements had no idea the school was putting on a basketball tournament in her honor. In fact, she found out about the tournament through a friend on Sunday, two days after it happened.
“On Friday, I was on Twitter and people were talking about a basketball tournament, but I had no clue what they were talking about,” she said. “I was gone from school all last week, so it was easy for me not to have a clue.”
Clements said it was fitting the organizers of the fundraiser chose to incorporate basketball because that is one of her favorite sports. Clements has been a boys’ basketball manager all four years of high school.
“I love basketball but I’m bad at it,” she said.
The managers are in charge of the water bottles, videotaping the game and recording the statistics, which is Clements’ specialty.
“I like math, so doing stats is fun for me,” she said. “We also get to play games with the guys, such as three-point knockout. They’re really welcoming and friendly toward us.”
The team who won Friday’s tournament consisted of Dillon Fry, Roan Bachar, Hannah Sobaski and Spencer Peterman, who plays on the boys’ basketball team.
Miklo said, “Spencer knows everything Jennifer did for him. Those kids were happy to be participating. They weren’t in it for the prizes.”
Clements said today she felt “really good” and that she did not feel much pain from the surgery. She said she was taking pain relief medication.
“I feel I have more energy now,” she said. “I was exhausted all the time before the surgery. I took naps all the time. Now I can definitely feel the difference.”
Clements’s mother Sheila said her daughter had surgery to repair two holes in her heart. During surgery, doctors actually found three holes. Two of the holes were small but the third was the size of a quarter.
“That’s pretty big,” Sheila said. “Jennifer had never had surgery before. She’s never even given blood. She went from nothing to a major surgery.”
Sheila and Scott Clements’s daughter Jessica has had open-heart surgery, too.
Sheila grew up in Fairfield, moved away and then moved back. She said she was blown away at the outpouring of support the community has shown for her daughters.
“Times like this make me realize I did the right thing by moving back,” she said. “It’s where my kids need to grow up.”
Doctors told Clements she would probably need six weeks to recover from the heart surgery. Clements said she feels well enough to begin attending school as early as next week. She has a doctor’s appointment April 2, and she expects to start school the next day.
“I might do half days at first,” she said. “Wednesday is already almost a half day, so that works out.”
Clements’ surgery came at the worst possible time for her, which is at the beginning of the tennis season. Her surgery will force her to sit out the whole season. She said she took the news pretty hard, but she is still looking forward to cheering on her teammates from the sidelines.
By the end of her junior year, Clements had climbed into the No. 1 spot on the tennis team, which meant she was always playing the best player from the other team. The girl on the team who will replace her as the new No. 1 happens to be her doubles partner and best friend, Haylee Gilpin.
“I’ve been playing with her since I was 9 years old,” Clements said. “I’m excited to watch my friends play, because usually you don’t get to watch your teammates.”
Gilpin, teammate Kim O’Carroll and tennis coach Heidi Grunwald visited Clements when she was in the hospital. Grunwald said Clements is a wonderful person who would do anything for anybody.
“She is so bubbly, and she loves to do community service,” Grunwald said.