For a little girl, he’s quite often the first man she’ll ever love.
If you’re lucky enough, your dad will be the one man who will continue to love you even when you outgrow your first training bike; he’ll be there when you suffer your first injury in the sport you live and breathe for, and he’ll even attempt to try to mend your first broken heart.
For Tessa Beauchamp, her dad Steve would have done all of that and an infinite amount more. Just from hearing him talk so highly of Tessa, it’s very clear that although she’s gone, her father still thinks the world of his little girl.
“She was one of those people that had a unique ability to make people feel comfortable around her,” he says. “She was somebody that you’d walk in and people would just gravitate to her.”
Steve coached his daughter Tessa through her Grade 9 year until her senior year, admiring her competitive, yet friendly nature on and off the court.
“She was probably the one who put the most into her game. She would drag me out of the house at all hours of the night—because I had a key to Holy Cross—we’d go in and shoot. I mean, to be honest it was never dragging me. I was always happy to go.”
And of course, Steve remembers the road trips with his daughter and the team, especially the long bus rides where Tessa loved to show off her vocal skills.
“Now, my mom has a beautiful voice. But for whatever reason, none of her kids, so my brothers and sisters, or her grandkids, have anything close to a voice like my mom had. Unbeknownst to Tessa, she thought she could sing like my mother. So we’re on the bus, and [the team would] start singing songs, and then all of a sudden you’ll hear Tessa singing, and everybody’ll start laughing because she was such a bad singer,” laughs Steve. “And she just kept singing.”
On the court, Tessa played a pretty good guard early on. As she grew, her foot speed dropped off slightly, so she took over the forward position instead. Her father regarded her as a “pretty well rounded” athlete who had no issues getting to the hoop.
“After high school, she had signed to go to Trinity Western, and then unfortunately the whole cancer thing came back. I think she would have been a good CIS player,” says Steve.
Tessa, who not long after graduating from Holy Cross Secondary, lost her battle to cancer at 18-years-old.
“She finished off her Grade 12 year knowing that it had come back, and then we did a specialized treatment out of Edmonton where they tried to do this isotope therapy radiation. And we thought it was actually working well, but then unfortunately, it didn’t. Things sort of really caught up to us after that.”
Since the cancer was very rare—at the time, there were only four similar cases in the entirety of North America—there wasn’t much research done, nor was there a cure.
The same weekend that Tessa passed, Steve and his youngest daughter Rachel were involved in a mini senior’s tournament at Holy Cross that included just four teams.
“Rachel and I were both debating whether we should go to that game, and then we kind of said that Tess would be really mad at us if we didn’t go the game to play,” says Steve. “So we went to the game and I think Rachel had one of her best games ever.”
Since the mini tournament fell on the same weekend of her passing, a foundation was set up almost immediately in her name and the wheels were in motion to create the Tessa Tournament.
“We mentioned it to a few other schools we knew in AA. The difference is that we wanted to make it about all levels of girl’s basketball. We didn’t really know of any other tournaments that did that. There were lots of tournaments that would do one of the grades, but not many tournaments that would do all three grades. And that’s basically where it originated. It’s just kind of grown from there. This is now our 5th year.”
Now in its 5th year, the Tessa Tournament has grown to 37 teams—18 senior teams, 11 junior teams, and eight Grade 8 teams—held at four different locations, including Holy Cross, St. Matthew’s Elementary, Surrey Christian School, and Fleetwood Park.
The tournament is free; however, if you’d like to make a donation to the Tessa Foundation, there will be a table set up to do so. The foundation recently received charity status, as well.
“One of the primary focuses is to give scholarships. I think we’re up over $8,000 per year in scholarships. And we give them out at various events, not just Tessa’s,” says Steve.
The tournament will honour the legacy that Tessa left behind while also allowing for those attending the event to represent her life by wearing purple.
“We’ve had teams show up in purple reversible; purple jerseys that they’ve bought. They’ll paint their legs and paint their shoes. There have been some wonderful ideas throughout the years.”
With so much support from the basketball community, former teammates, and her incredible family, Tessa’s spirit lives on through this tournament. And while her smile may only be a memory to some, her father keeps Tessa in his heart wherever he goes. He has helped so many people remember that smile and the amazing girl who always put others before herself.
“We miss her tremendously. We’re so proud of her and how she battled through it,” says Steve. “But also just the inspiration that she left for everybody that’s around her.”
The Tessa Tournament kicks off Friday, February 2nd at Holy Cross and various locations nearby.
Written By: Crystal Scuor