CROWN POINT ­­– Happy tears were shed Monday night as the Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids Foundation received a $13,000 check to help kids fighting cancer.

“These kids are our heroes and these heroes are supporting our heroes,” said NICK Executive Director Donna Criner, who accepted the donation from the Crown Point Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.

Proceeds came from the fire department’s second annual dodgeball tournament, which attracted 32 teams and more than 450 local first responders and public personnel. The event was held in March at the Sparta Dome in Crown Point.

“These guys have been our biggest cheerleaders,” Criner said, referring to the local first responders. “We look forward to this event every year like Christmas. This is our Christmas and we can’t thank them enough.”

Over the last 10 years, the NICK foundation has aided 166 families in six Indiana counties, Criner said.

The nonprofit organization provides a variety of support and services to families who have a child battling cancer. These range from financial and travel assistance to connecting families to one another to create support and provide hope.

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NICK also contributes to other charities to fund research in finding a cure.

Cancer is the most common cause of death by disease for children in America, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization. Each year, an estimated 15,780 children between the ages of birth and 19 years are diagnosed with cancer.

“It’s not always about the money,” Criner said. “It’s about people understanding that cancer is the No. 1 disease killer of our children – by far.”

Mark Reed, firefighter/paramedic, said he was skeptic about the department being able to beat last year’s charity tournament, which raised more than $10,000 for the foundation. But, “surprisingly we did it.”

“We are really proud of our Northwest Indiana communities coming together,” Reed said. “Hopefully we can keep getting bigger and bigger. We look forward to next year, raising even more money.”

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Allie covers South Lake County municipal government, development and breaking news for The Times. She comes to the Region from Lebanon, Indiana. She is a proud Ball State University graduate.