The Kearny community came together to support one of its own this past Tuesday as the Kearny High School boys and girls basketball teams hosted a double-header in honor and support of KHS senior William Mullins.
According to athletic director Vincent Almeida, the “Leukemia Awareness” event raised nearly $3,000 to support both the Mullins family and the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. The two games drew more than 500 fans total, which is nearly triple the typical attendance for a home basketball double-header.
“It’s wonderful what the people of Kearny and outside of Kearny are doing for my son and cancer research,” said William’s father and Kearny head boys basketball and volleyball coach BIll Mullins. “You don’t realize when you’re living your life how many people you’ve touched or how many friends you have. It’s really amazing. You see people that take an interest and it’s really, really nice.
“It was a very important night, a very touching night. William wasn’t there, but he appreciates it very much. What people are doing for him and also other cancer patients in helping to fight the disease.”
Mullins, an all-state volleyball player and basketball standout who is also among the top five in his graduating class academically, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in November.
“Kearny’s a special town and we showed it on Tuesday when everyone came out to support William Mullins,” Almeida said. “He’s a great kid who really exemplifies what we’re trying to instill in our student-athletes here. Someone who is dedicated, works hard, doesn’t allow outside factors to influence him negatively, someone who is willing to sacrifice for whatever program he’s in.
“It’s very powerful for everyone here in the school. William’s been running around this place since he could walk. He participated in all of the youth camps that we’ve had and then eventually became a high school athlete and thriving academically as well.”
Since William Mullins’ diagnosis, a couple of smaller activities within the school to raise funds had taken place, but last week’s basketball event was the biggest and most publicized to date.
According to Bill Mullins, the idea of a basketball double-header was first brought up by members of the girls basketball team. Soon thereafter as the season started in mid-December, the formal plans were put forth – an event that started with the Kearny boys playing University of Charter of Jersey City followed by the Kardinals girls squaring off with Union City.
“Going into the season I had spoken to Bill as well as Coach (Jody) Hill about possibly one day having a double-header fundraiser for William and to show him that we support him, we miss him, that we’re there with him and that whatever he needs from us, we’re there and he can always reach out.” said Almeida. “We put it together fairly quickly and the community responded quickly and showed up in force.”
All four participating teams wore orange shirts that said “Playing for William” in support of Leukemia Awareness.
In the boys game, which the Kardinals won 49-30, William’s younger brother Matheus, a junior, scored a career-high 21 points. The amount also matched the career-high William had set in a game last season.
Matheus Mullins, who has changed his number from 33 to the 24 that William wore, leads the team in scoring at 13.7 points per game.
“It’s tough for him also because he and his brother always played everything together,” Bill Mullins said. “They were always on the same team, whether it was in soccer, basketball, baseball. Everything they’ve done, they’ve done together.”
Union City defeated Kearny in the nightcap by a score of 51-38, but the result on the court paled to the emotions and support of the evening.
“It’s amazing how it really is a small world and with technology and social media now people know about things (quicker) as compared to years ago,” said Bill Mullins, who wanted to thank superintendent of schools Flora Encarnacao, principal Jackie Richardson and Almeida among others. “It’s a nice, warm feeling to know that you’re not on your own.”
Learn more about the writer ...
Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)