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Kindness Abounds

Kindness Abounds: FHS Basketball Welcomes Morse Pond and Team CHASE Foundation

By Sarah E. Murphy 

 Middle school and high school basketball students in a classroomStands were packed at the Falmouth High School Boys’ Varsity Basketball game on Friday, January 20, and not just because the team was facing Barnstable.

Symbolic in many ways, the game marked the return of “Morse Pond Night” for the first time since 2020 due to Covid. The long-standing tradition, a highlight of the season, was inspired by the pen pal program Coach Paul Lundberg established between his players and his students during his career in Falmouth Public Schools. Mr. Lundberg spent twenty-five years teaching fourth grade at East Falmouth Elementary School, followed by a decade as a fifth grade teacher at Morse Pond, where he continued the pen pal program until his retirement. 

The game was preceded by a team visit to Morse Pond on January 11. In the spirit of the letter-writing initiative, Mr. Lundberg and Morse Pond School fifth grade teacher Sue Ripley Young, his former teaching partner of seven years, collaborated on the idea to bring “Basketball Buddies” to Morse Pond this year, enabling the young students to address topics with the players that in the past might have been discussed in their letters. 

The FHS team attended recess and lunch with the fifth and sixth graders, spending time in classrooms, while answering an array of questions posed by their younger Clipper counterparts about high school, college plans, and what it was like when they attended Morse Pond, to name a few. 

As part of the tradition, the Falmouth/Barnstable game served as a fundraiser for Morse Pond, and Sue Ripley Young and Ann Goulart, who also teaches fifth grade at Morse Pond, served as organizers for Morse Pond. In an effort to generate excitement and increase attendance, the game was advertised on the morning announcements at Morse Pond throughout the week, resulting in the sale of 275 tickets by the Morse Pond PTO. Proceeds will go toward new recess equipment for the school.

The evening was also scheduled to coincide with the inaugural Chase Challenge Ball Kindness Night, presented by the Team CHASE Foundation, a Falmouth-based nonprofit established in memory of Chase Soares, one of Coach Lundberg’s stars on and off the court, who graduated from FHS in 2014, and continued his record-breaking career in college. Since his tragic passing in February of 2020, Chase’s family, led by his mother, Brooke DeBarros, have honored his legacy through their mission to spread acts of kindness around the world. Established in 2022, Team CHASE also gives back to communities in need, through donations, scholarships, and other philanthropic efforts.

While Falmouth proved victorious, besting Barnstable 64-50, that wasn’t the only reason the game was so memorable. 

Mr. Lundberg credited Athletic Director Kathleen Burke for her longtime support of the collaboration between the two schools, and FHS Principal Dr. Alan Harris, for his loyal attendance throughout the season. He also acknowledged the high school students who were seated alongside the middle-schoolers in the student section, right in the center of all the action. 

“It was a special night for the Team CHASE Foundation, with great support from Morse Pond teachers, families and students,” he said. 

“There was a tremendous turnout by the entire FHS administration, staff, and student body, and the FHS students were awesome. They created an amazing atmosphere.”

As a raffle challenge, students received a QR code from Team CHASE in order to log on to the website to document acts of kindness that they have done or pledged to do, whether large or small. Ms. DeBarros addressed the crowd at half-time to talk about her son’s legacy, awarding prizes such as basketballs and gift cards, selecting raffle numbers reflective of her son’s basketball career. She also presented Team CHASE bags to the basketball team for their efforts. Music to inspire the team and their fans was provided by D.J. and Alicia Frye of Straight From the Cape Entertainment. The couple are also members of the Team CHASE Foundation.

Ann Goulart described the energy in the field house as “electric.” 

“There was such a sense of community spirit, and it was wonderful to see ten to 18-year-olds grouped together, doing the spirit fingers, absolutely loving the night. The FHS kids were so well-behaved, and they really enjoyed having the younger kids there,” she said. 

McKenna Donahue, a student at Morse Pond, was proud to be part of the cheering section.

“The best part was seeing my poster on the wall at the gym,” she said. 

“I liked seeing the high school kids do the secret hand motions and cheers. Another good part was watching them win.”

FHS junior Declan Norris, who plays guard, appreciated the opportunity to establish a connection with the students prior to the game. 

“It was a great experience going to see the kids, seeing their smiles, and how excited they were. I feel honored to be a role model for the kids and make their day,” he said. 

Junior Gavin Friel, also a guard, agreed. 

“I remember looking up to those kids when I was that age, so it made me happy to be strong role models. We were able to show them what their futures could be in upcoming years,” he said. 

Following their victory, Mr. Lundberg delivered a letter to Morse Pond on behalf of the team, thanking the school for their enthusiastic attendance, which they felt helped lead them to victory. They also extended appreciation to their own Morse Pond teachers, whom they remember for always emphasizing the importance of kindness and hard work. 

Morse Pond Special Education Building Administrator Katie Hergt credited Mr. Lundberg for continuing to make a positive impact in his retirement. 

“Paul is dedicated to keeping the connection with the younger students, and he works so hard with the high-schoolers to be involved in the community,” she said. 

The Girls’ Varsity Basketball team, coached by Morse Pond School fifth grade teacher Todd Oliveira, will host “Morse Pond Night” at their home game on Friday, February 10.

“We’ve always scheduled these nights as book-ends to No Guff Week, because the theme ties in with how the players lead by example, talking to the kids about teamwork and positivity,” Ms. Goulart said. 

In addition to a “smooth” jump shot, the result of practice and passion, Paul Lundberg will remember Chase Soares for his character, both on and off the court, writing heartfelt letters to young pen pals, and serving as a respected mentor in Mr. Lundberg’s youth summer basketball camp. 

“Chase always showed kindness, and he was so passionate about the game. Always smiling, always polite. Every time he saw you, he’d shake your hand and give you that big smile,” he said. 

“The little kids loved him. He was like the Pied Piper.”

Chase’s brother, Brayden DeBarros, an eighth-grader at Lawrence School, and an active member of Team CHASE, was grateful for the chance to publicly celebrate Chase while also giving back to the community.

“The Chase Challenge Kindness Ball Night was a great contribution in my brother’s memory. From his passion for basketball and his empathetic soul, it was a way to show Chase’s principles as a person,” he said. 

Brooke DeBarros called it an “honor.”

“It was a very emotional and overwhelming event. The Falmouth/Barnstable game was always Chase’s favorite because of the intense rivalry,” she said. 

“It was amazing to see a packed house, and spread kindness in honor of Chase’s legacy.”

Sarah E. Murphy