Silent Night basketball game remembers Number 8

Nick Wihlborg succumbed to cancer in 2014 at age 12

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  • Nick Wihlborg lost his battle with cancer in 2014, at age 12 Photo provided by the Nicholas Wihlbord foundation

By Laurie Gordon

STANHOPE-- Next Friday, January 7, the Lenape Valley Regional High School (LVRHS) Boys Basketball team will play a basketball game at 7 pm against Sussex Tech on their home court. But this isn't just any other game. The game will be a Silent Night game, where the fans will be asked to remain completely silent until Lenape hits their 8th point. Then, everyone will go nuts.

Eight was Nicholas “Nick” David Wihlborg's uniform number and his birthday was 8/8. At age 12, on November 19, 2014, Wihlborg lost his battle with childhood cancer.

“The number has a significant meaning for the family. It’s a really nice way to remember Nick and keep his memory alive,” said family friend Jen Russell.

Wihlborg was born in Livingston, NJ, and lived all of his life in Stanhope. He was an Honors Student at the Valley Road School and All-Star in the Lakeland Little League. He loved baseball, hockey (especially the Devils) and loved cooking after watching the cooking channel. His favorite number was eight, so the game will remain silent until the Patriots score their eighth point in his memory.

The game has become an annual event and is hosted by the Nicholas Wihlborg Foundation. There will be items for sale and a 50/50.

“The Foundation has done some incredible work,” Russell said. “Through other fundraising events, we have been able to sponsor a child on their Make-A-Wish trip, we send donations to the families of local children who are recently diagnosed with cancer, and we continue to fund a research grant that was established in Nick’s name at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.”

The game means a lot to the players. Craig Swanson is a senior on Lenape's team and has been on the squad since the Silent Night was started after Wihlborg's passing his sophomore year.

James Sweizer is a sophomore at Lenape, and was one of Wihlborg's good friends. He plays on Lenape's JV basketball team, and fondly remembers his friend with the playing of the Silent Night game each year.

“Nick was one of my best friends in elementary school,” Sweizer said. “He was a great kid and we made lots of memories together. Basketball is my favorite sport and this game means a lot for me because it is played in honor of my good friend. I look forward to getting an opportunity to play in the game next year.”

Russell said, "Nick loved sports. He tried them all but baseball was his true love. He was a pretty good little player and definitely looked forward to playing for Lenape."

Lenape gave him an honorary varsity letter when he was diagnosed, and he always had number eight as his number. Lakeland Little League retired number eight when Nick passed away. Wihlborg was also an avid NJ Devils fan and went to games regularly with his dad. He also loved the Yankees.

“He was smart, funny and handled his disease like a champ,” Russell said. "This game means a lot to Nick's parents," Russell added. "One of the biggest fears of any parent who loses a child is that the child will be forgotten. Having this game in Nick's memory helps keep his name alive hopefully for years to come. This game is not a large revenue event for the Foundation. Instead it is focused on keeping Nick's name and his memory alive for our small community."

The Foundation runs multiple events throughout the year to raise funds. This event is for the kids to participate and remember their teammate and friend in a fun way. The Nicholas Wihlborg Foundation Mission Statement is, “The Nicholas Wihlborg Foundation is a 501c dedicated to fighting childhood cancer, while supporting kids and their families who are impacted by this disease.”

Proceeds from merchandise sold and the 50/50 will go to help the Nicholas Wihlborg Foundation fight to eliminate childhood cancers. Attendees are encouraged to wear black and orange. For further information, visit their website at: The foundation's Facebook:

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