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Local Families Helped by Annual Hike

Proceeds help Toms River families dealing with cancer and in need of assistance

The "Hirtes Hike" was created in 2010, after Maureen Hirtes lost her battle with cancer.

The hike was created to help the Hirtes family, including Maureen's husband Mike, as well as their 11 children.

Toms River North coach Brett Smith, along with his wife Kelli Smith, and coaching staff Lawrence Cuneo, David Bianchini, Rob Heisler and Mike Alfieri helped to come up with the idea. On Saturday, the second annual Hirtes Hike brought out the community to again assist local families in need.

Last year, the program increased to help four families from the Toms River School District and this year, four more families were chosen, according to Smith. When the students begin school in the fall, applications are sent out, and after a screening process, certain families are chosen based on their needs.

"It's wonderful to see the whole community come together for support," Smith said. "This is a great lesson for the kids to learn, about giving back. We are trying to teach them it's more than winning and losing, it's also about helping each other."

This year, the hike will be supporting Paige Franklin, along with the Nagle family, the GaNun family and the Wavershak family. Franklin was in attendance, enjoying the hike and hanging out with her friends. The GaNun family was also in attendance, however, they left early due to unforeseen circumstances.

Franklin has metastasized brain cancer that attacks the brain and spine. She has undergone six months chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation treatment, and looks to be in good spirits.

The Hirtes Hike will be helping Franklin and her family with the costs of her treatment and other medical expenses. She is looking forward to life after her cancer.

“I want to go to Princeton University and become a pediatric nurse,” Franklin said.

For a gallery from the event, click .

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