There wasn't a search for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow last Thursday.
For those around the Spring-Ford boys lacrosse team, especially senior Brandon Dougherty, his mother Tracy and brother John Patrick, there didn't need to be.
The rainbow meant enough.
Spring-Ford closed out its regular season schedule that evening with a visit from Pope John Paul II. It was Senior Night. Senior Night is an emotional one for any doting mother watching her first born. It was even more so for Tracy Dougherty. Unfortunately, her husband Dave was not in attendance.
Dave Dougherty died last November after a 17-month battle with brain cancer. He was 53. ‘Doc,' as he was known to many, was a family man who also loved the outdoors, especially boating.
He was first diagnosed on June 21, 2012, with the same type of brain cancer (glioblastoma) suffered by Sen. Ted Kennedy, former Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw and former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton, who is currently battling the illness.
"We knew the diagnosis was a bullet," Tracy Dougherty said. "But we were optimistic given Dave's very deep faith and strong, amazingly positive attitude that he would be one of the outliers in terms of the amount of time. It didn't work out that way."
The Doughertys were embraced by the Spring-Ford lacrosse program during his bout, leading to the team's adoption of the mantra ‘We play for Doc' prior to his death.
They still play for Doc and have done so all season, which was capped by a 12-6 win over PJP to complete an undefeated 14-0 run through their PAC-10 schedule.
The players, coaches and families around the Spring-Ford boys lacrosse program have been a constant source of support to the Dougherty family.
"I was so deeply touched what the boys did and how they embraced it," Tracy Dougherty said. "Most of the boys knew Dave, and some didn't, but they got on board with the idea of something bigger than they are."
‘We play for Doc' was adopted in October, making its debut at a tournament in Kennett Square. Pinnies and t-shirts were created in the interest of fundraising to help the Doughertys with medical costs. The entire team sported the shirts at the tournament for a team photo to boost Dave's spirits as the disease continued to take its toll.
"That was something that Dave really took hold of. He thought it was great," Spring-Ford coach Kevin Donnelly said. "He had a picture up that he could see all the time."
Members of the team have also assisted the family with yard work at their Royersford home before and after Dave's death.
The impact was not lost on Brandon Dougherty, a defenseman and team captain.
"I was surprised my team would do this, but I know if it was happening to one of my teammates I would definitely want to make sure we would do something like that. It's all part of being a team and looking out for your teammates, and I am so grateful for everything they've done for us," he said.
Being a captain – seniors Alex Marte, Matt Messerle, Greg Bresnan and junior Zach Hare round out the group – is an honor he embraces.
"I like to think of myself as a leader on the team. I'm always trying to point kids in the right direction and help out as much as I can on and off the field, doing my part," said Brandon Dougherty, who will attend St. Joseph's in the fall where he plans to major in finance.
It's a role that fits him, according to his coach.
"He's a captain because he's always positive, always happy, an uplifting person, much like his dad," Donnelly said. "He's very enthusiastic and very positive. That's who he is. Even through this difficult time he's still an upbeat guy."
Senior Night was a culmination for the Doughertys.
Brandon Dougherty, joined on the field by his mother, was the last senior acknowledged and announcer Alex Miscavage, a longtime family friend, shared memories of Dave and a moment of silence was held in his honor while the majority of people in attendance sporting ‘We play for Doc' clothing.
"I was emotional because it was Senior Night and Brandon is our first; he's the first to graduate, a team captain, and because the team has been so wonderful," Tracy Dougherty said.
"I was sitting in the stands and I was talking to Dave throughout the day and I really wanted to be strong ... A couple minutes before we're supposed to line up for the ceremony here comes a rainbow. That's the sign. That's the sign that says, ‘You can do this.'"
After playing in the JV game, John Patrick, a sophomore, had more work to do, playing for a stretch alongside his older brother during the varsity game, a move by coach Donnelly that wasn't lost on Tracy Dougherty.
"It was beyond touching," she said.
It's already been a successful campaign for the Rams, who will go for a fourth straight PAC-10 championship this week. The semifinals are set for Tuesday at Spring-Ford with a doubleheader beginning at 5:30 p.m.
"‘We play for Doc' and this being my last year, it's definitely special to make this year count and be remembered," Brandon Dougherty said.
No matter the results this week and in districts, the people around the Spring-Ford boys lacrosse program can already be proud of the team on and off the field after rallying around one of their own.
"We always try to instill that we should be like family and treat each other like you are brothers and develop that bond. I think that's really something that sports do across all boundaries. That's something we've always tried to instill, pride in the program, pride in each other and support each other no matter what," Donnelly said.
It hasn't been an easy journey, but Brandon Dougherty and his family have reason to feel fortunate.
"Even at the beginning when we got the diagnosis, within the first day Coach Donnelly stepped right in and wanted to stay involved. It was honestly the whole team, people I was very good friends with, people I wasn't as close with. Everyone stepped up."