WATERVILLE — Lisa Ericson is a seventh-grade English teacher at Winslow Junior High School. She’s battling breast cancer. And she stresses that she’s lucky.

“I’m grateful that I work for a school system and I have health insurance,” she said. “My family and my school community have been … I can’t say enough about how magnificent they have been.”

Ericson has the means and the support necessary to continue her fight — which has allowed her to empathize with those who don’t. “My school community at Winslow has already done so much. But I totally get it,” she said. “Every bit helps, because it is true and incredibly stressful that every little piece of this, unless you have good insurance, is so costly.”

Skowhegan field hockey coach Paula Doughty made the same observation, and seven years ago she did something to help, organizing the first Battle for Breast Cancer field hockey tournament. On Saturday she and her field hockey team hosted it again at Thomas College, and in the years since it has grown from four teams to eight, and also expanded to include four middle school teams.

The event has also seen a growth in funds raised, going from $16,655 in 2011 to $23,666 now, with every cent going toward the Martha B. Webber Breast Cancer Center to help with uninsured or underinsured breast cancer patients, the ones who aren’t able to afford the radiation treatments, the tests or the back-and-forth trips to medical centers that can turn into a small fortune in gas costs.

“I was thinking about what I could do to get my kids involved with giving back to the community,” Doughty said. “In this day and age, a lot of people are about ‘me, me, me.’ And I’m like, ‘We’ve got to start doing things for other people and thinking about other people.’ Because people do so much for us.

“Being a schoolteacher, I see that all the time. Kids will say ‘We don’t have money to go to the doctor, we don’t have the extra money.’ So I thought this would be a perfect cause.”

The event had raised over $130,000 going into its seventh edition, and on Saturday it featured 24 teams playing 30-minute games on Thomas’s two artificial turf fields. Skowhegan hosted, and other local participants included Messalonskee, Lawrence, Winthrop, Mt. Blue and Winslow, which had Ericson present as an honorary coach.

“I’m a mascot more than a coach,” she said, laughing.

The fundraising wasn’t limited to the game. All the teams involved participated in their own efforts in the weeks between the end of spring sports and Saturday, be it bake sales, car washes and more, anything that could combine with the donations event sponsors were sending in. It wasn’t a hassle; the players and coaches involved knew they were working for a worthwhile cause.

“One of the coaches said that cancer has touched everyone’s lives in some way,” Winthrop senior Kinli DiBiase said. “It’s true. I’m sure everyone’s experienced it, whether they’ve read about it or been personally involved with it. It’s horrible, and being able to help someone that we don’t even know and being able to bring some amount of happiness to someone’s life is just a great feeling.”

It hit a little bit closer for some playing in the games on Saturday than others. Lawrence junior Ainsley Day’s mother is a breast cancer patient, and the Bulldogs played with a banner reading “Today we play for Mama Day” stretched across their tent above the fields.

“It shows us how the community all comes together for something this important,” Day said. “Breast cancer touches a lot of lives, and I know how that feels. For something like this to happen, it kind of makes me happy to know that everyone is there for each other. My team’s support for my mom is kind of overwhelming, but at the same time, it’s nice.”

As the participating community has widened, it’s become clear that the tournament, and its cause, have made a significant impact with each passing year. Winthrop was a new addition for this season, and coach Jess Merrill said her team couldn’t wait to jump aboard.

“It’s such an awesome honor to be associated with all of this,” she said. “I’m just so proud that we were even invited or thought of to be a part of this. … It’s a pretty big deal.”

For teams that have been playing for years — like Lawrence, which was participating even before Shawna Robinson took over as head coach four years ago — it remains a special event on the calendar.

“Our numbers are great, everybody knows that this is a special thing to play for,” Robinson said. “We donate money, we raise money, the kids all work really hard at it, and we get to do the fun stuff. We get to play.”

And “fun” becomes the key word during the games. Competitive games and elimination tournaments can wait until the fall — a sentiment shared even by the state’s most winningest coach.

“I find coaching in the summer for me is so much more fun than coaching during the season,” Doughty said. “You can play everybody, you can help them, you can see those smiles. And if you lose, it’s not the end of the world.”

The tournament’s goal is for a cancer diagnosis to not be, either. And for some families, thanks to these funds, it hasn’t been.

“People just break down. They’re just so emotional to think that someone would help them,” Doughty said. “And that’s a special thing. I always tell my kids, you’ll never feel bad about giving back.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM