ST. MONICA — For the sixth consecutive year, St. Monica’s Catholic Elementary School will host the Seahawks Classic, an annual volleyball tournament to raise funds for breast cancer awareness and prevention — with all proceeds from the event going to the Keep a Breast Foundation.

Opening ceremonies are set to begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, on the school’s playground and the tournament will include 16 elementary school girl volleyball teams.

Aside from the team at St. Monica’s, some teams set to participate are: St. Mark’s in Venice, St. Augustus in Culver City, Corpus Christi from Pacific Palisades, Good Shepherd from Beverly Hills, St. Jerome’s and St. Anastasia from Westchester.

Among the many people to be honored during this Saturday’s event will be St. Monica’s own Wendy Hackney, a fifth grade teacher who is currently battling breast cancer.

“She is a champion of courage,” said Erin Barnhill, tournament director and junior high teacher at St. Monica. “People will be showing up on Saturday, not just for the volleyball or the Jamba Juice, but mainly because they know Mrs. Hackney will be honored.”

This would have been Hackney’s fifth year in her own classroom at St. Monica, after having been an aide there for three years. She also has two of her own children enrolled at St. Monica — a seventh grader in the middle school and a junior at the high school level.

She took a leave of absence this year after being diagnosed last December. She underwent a few surgeries and went through radiation in the spring, but it didn’t hurt her abilities as a teacher until it eventually spread, forcing Hackney to go in for more extensive surgery and treatment and causing her to take a leave of absence until January.

“I’m feeling fine but I miss being in the classroom, I miss being with my colleagues, I wish that I was there in my fifth grade classroom, working,” Hackney said.

“Technically, since we got to the cancer so early, as far as they can tell it’s gone,” she added. “That’s why I was so proud and happy that St. Monica decided to work this year with the Keep a Breast Foundation because they really emphasize prevention and focus on early detection.

“With me, there wasn’t a lump or anything, they caught it based on a routine mammogram when I was only 44. I tell people if I hadn’t had that routine mammogram they wouldn’t have caught it as early as they had.”

Before tournament play begins, beach volleyball legend Sinjin Smith will conduct a skills demonstration with current UCLA and USC men’ s volleyball players.

“This has really grown to be quite the tournament, it’s a great way for teams to get some competitive practice in before the playoffs,” said Barnhill. “We’re expecting around 300-350 fans, and we will be providing free valet parking.”

The event is free to all spectators and the valet parking will be provided at the Washington Avenue entrance. Beverage vendors Jamba Juice of Santa Monica and Kramer’s Italian Ice will be selling their cool beverages and a full snack bar and cupcake booth will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“This is amazing, it’s just humbled me because I know I’m not the only one out there struggling with this, especially in our community,” Hackney said.

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