Capstone Project revives Find A Cure Night tradition

The Winters High School cheer squad performs at the 2020 Find a Cure Night (Express file photo)

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Winters is filled with traditions, and among its most significant and impactful is Find A Cure Night. Although it’s been on a hiatus the last two years, Winters High School men’s varsity basketball team athlete AJ Pignataro is reviving the magic of this event through his Senior Capstone Project.

Find a Cure Night’s story begins back during the 2004–05 WHS basketball season. Zach and Jared Davis — standing at 6 feet, 9 inches and 6 feet, 7 inches — were warmly welcomed transfers from Folsom. With the twin towers on the roster, the men’s varsity basketball team was poised to win it all, and they did just that with their section championship banner raised high in the rafters of the Young Gymnasium ever since — the ‘One Ego’ team, as they called themselves.

Assistant coach Benny Geerts is surrounded by, from left, Keith Geerts, Zach Davis and Jared Davis. (Courtesy photo)

The following year, playing basketball in college, Jared became ill with a rare disease known as Aplastic Anemia. Although he fought like a Warrior for the better part of a year, the disease took his life on Aug 8, 2006 at the age of 19. Heartbreaking as it was, it also inspired the coaching duo assistant coach Benny Geerts, this reporter’s father, and head coach Jason Davis, as well as Jared’s parents Ross and Sue Davis to create the Jared Davis Memorial Scholarship.

Every year since its creation — save for the last couple — the scholarship’s primary fundraising event has been Find A Cure Night, where Jared is honored along with other heroes in the community who are or have fought an uphill health battle.

“I’ve heard about Find A Cure Night in the past and have even attended some of them as a kid. I’ve always been around it and thought I’d do it and it would be cool to bring it back. I also just wanted to do something for the community too,” Pignataro said, talking about what inspired him to revive Find A Cure Night as his Capstone Project.

Thus far, Pignataro has been able to secure the Buckhorn BBQ Food Truck, has rallied the WHS cheer squad, and will have Jared’s framed jersey at the game. The next part is getting the word out to the community.

In the past, Find A Cure Night kicked off before the men’s varsity basketball game with an introductory speech made by either Benny Geerts or Jason Davis. They would talk about Jared, the significance of his impact on friends and family, and how the tradition of Find A Cure Night honors his memory.

Pignataro, however, will carry on the tradition in his own way as he’s slated to say a few words before the game begins. He also confirmed The Buckhorn BBQ Food Truck will donate some of its revenue proceeds from the event to the Jared Davis Scholarship — and a donation box will also be there for all in attendance to give to.

AJ Pignataro focused his Senior Capstone project on reviving Find a Cure Night. (KS Winters Photography/Courtesy photo)

“It’s not only important for the Jared Davis Scholarship Foundation, but it’s also an event where the community can come together, support a good cause and enjoy a basketball game while they’re at it. Overall, it’s going to be a good time,” said Pignataro. “It’s interesting to see the perspective of setting it up and what you have to do to create it. As a kid, I was more interested in the basketball game, but it’s cool now seeing where all the money is going towards. Also, I’ve never really done something in the community in the past, and just doing this has given me a different perspective about all the other people who do this kind of stuff in the community, how hard they work and how people don’t really realize it. It just feels good and has been a good experience overall for me.”

For Zach Davis — now a longtime Winters resident and father of two — it’s always been a night to enjoy with family and friends.

“I like that Find A Cure Night is being brought back because basketball in this town means a lot to me. It’s always been an event that’s brought a lot of people together and gives them a variety of reasons to come out. Whether it’s for my brother or if it’s just for themselves, it’s an opportunity to come out and watch a basketball game,” said Davis. “This game seems to always bring more people out. My wife Sterling and I are excited to see AJ make this event his own, how this night goes and hopefully, it comes back again next year. This event is always fun and brings a lot of happiness to a lot of people.”

Find A Cure Night is taking place on Friday, Jan. 27 when the Warriors will square off against Rio Vista High School. The junior varsity squad plays at 5:30 p.m. with the varsity team slated to tip off at 7 p.m.

Pignataro said donations to support the scholarship can be made at the door or via Venmo at @whsathleticswarriors, and attendees are encouraged to wear red.

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