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Castle Challenge: Common cause unites Barbs, Spartans

Fundraiser supports DeKalb, Sycamore high school teams

DeKALB – Isaac Hietanen was jumping around and dancing Friday during nearly the entire basketball matchup between Sycamore and DeKalb high schools.

Hietanen, a drum major for DeKalb High School’s band, had his face painted with orange and black barbs on his cheeks and had a gold stream of glitter down his nose.

The basketball games between the schools’ varsity boys and girls teams provided the right kind of energy for Hietanen.

“I love jumping up and down and, frankly, losing my voice,” he said. “It makes the hair on your arms stand when you’re making good music.”

Hietanen was one of nearly 4,500 people who attended the games at Northern Illinois University’s Convocation Center. The event was part of the annual Castle Challenge, Castle Bank’s fundraiser which benefits both the Sycamore Sports Boosters and the DeKalb Barb Boosters.

The Castle Challenge raised $52,000 for the 2013-14 school year, which began when DeKalb and Sycamore high schools played football in September. The money goes toward purchasing equipment and uniforms, said Bridget Carlson, Castle Bank marketing director.

“The rationale is to promote local athletics,” Carlson said. “This fundraiser brings the community together.

“It’s a rivalry, but at the same time, they work together in a cohesive unit.”

The event included an autograph session with Chandler Harnish, former quarterback for Northern Illinois University, Miss Iowa USA Carlyn Bradarich and WGN personality Dolly McCarthy.

There also was a Challenge Zone for kids, bounce houses, mascots,
a DJ, a Cheer Challenge, a 50/50 raffle and a performance by the NIU Silverettes dance team.

DeKalb’s varsity girls team defeated Sycamore 46-42. The boys played later in the evening.

Jeff Ryder, a graduate and former basketball player at DeKalb, said the rivalry between the two schools has changed since he went to school.

Since DeKalb and Sycamore now play in the same conference, there are more games the teams play against each other, Ryder said.

“It’s great for both communities to be so close,” Ryder said. “All the fans are here to support each other.”

That’s why Kortney Fay, an eighth-grader at Sycamore Middle School, attended the games.

Kortney had half her face painted in gold glitter. She said there are many reasons why she watches the games, supporting her team being one of them.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Kortney said. “It’s for my friends, the teams and to raise money.”

Megan Jones, a senior at DeKalb High School, had on what she called her orange hair, an orange headband with fake, orange hair sitting atop of it.

As an experiment, Jones wore a Sycamore High School sweatshirt to school Friday to see how mad people would get, she said.

The ploy got a reaction from Jones’ gym teacher.

“When my PE teacher saw me, he [jokingly] said I’d get a zero for the day,” Jones said.

There were 90 sponsors for the Castle Challenge, which has raised almost $2 million for local booster clubs since it began 14 years ago, Carlson said.

Helping hand

Since it began in 2000, the Castle Challenge has raised more than $850,000 in the DeKalb and Sycamore area, and more than $130,000 in Sandwich.

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