Michael Blair/MBlair@News-Herald.com Lake Erie College forward
Alyssa Wagers goes in strong toward the basket for two points as
Central State???s Rondah Harris defends during the second half of
Saturday???s ???Taking Breast Cancer by Storm??? double header at
the Jerome T. Osborne Family Athletic & Wellness Center.???
It didn't take rose-colored glasses to see that the basketball
doubleheader for breast cancer awareness was a success.
The referees used pink whistles and pink NCAA game balls, pink
ribbons hung from ponytails on the women's team, and pink T-shirts
speckled the stands. Not to mention the fluorescent pink headbands
on the men.
"Look out there," Lake Erie College Athletic Director Griz
Zimmermann said from the men's game sidelines. "They're wearing
pink socks over their white socks!
"From workers to students to fans, male and female, everybody
has embraced this with luster. Everybody's put their own little
touch on it."
Combined with the sale of T-shirts and bracelets, donations
collected at Lake Erie College's first "Taking Breast Cancer by
Storm" event raised more than $1,400 for the Kay Yow/Women's
Basketball Coaches Association Cancer Fund, which partners with the
V Foundation for Cancer Research.
The free event also joined the Pink Wave initiative of the Great
Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which Lake Erie College
Athletics joins this fall.
Delightfully both teams also delivered victories against Central
State University, the women breaking two school records in the
process, at the Jerome T. Osborne Family Athletic & Wellness
Center in Painesville.
Kay Yow, a legendary North Carolina State University women's
basketball coach diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, served as
the catalyst for the WBCA's Pink Zone after her third reoccurrence
of breast cancer in 2006. Her campaign raised more than $1.3
million for the cause in 2009, though she lost her battle in
She's also remembered for her Olympic gold medal win as coach of
the 1988 U.S. women's basketball team.
"We felt we've got this great opportunity in February, when they
usually do it, with a doubleheader here at home — let's make
it a special event," said Jason Tirotta, the college's sports
information and marketing coordinator. "Hopefully we'll make this a
Sports 'N' Sports in Madison provided T-shirts, giving all $5
from each sale to the cause. Both Storm teams, and about 40 game
day and administrative staff, wore blush-colored shooting shirts
The overwhelming support of athletes, cheerleaders and staff
warmed the hearts of several cancer survivors in the bleachers
— invited to stand and be recognized during each game.
"I heard about Kay Yow; she fought it for a long, long time,"
said Jean Bolinger of Cortland, diagnosed in 2003. Her
granddaughter is junior power forward Alyssa Wagers. "I think it's
great that the teams get involved in it, and the pink hair bands
— I love the pink hair bands on the guys."
Likewise, Sue Billhardt of Painesville Township, a friend of the
women's coaches, has been cancer-free three years now, but the
disease killed her husband's mother, Rose Billhardt of Willoughby,
before they could ever meet.
"The changes that have been made in 30 years are just
unbelievable, and it's all because of the funds that are raised for
breast cancer awareness," she said.
"What's neat is these young girls who do events like this become
even more aware, and things they do today may help them one day, or
one of their teammates or their mother or their sister.
"I never met my mother-in-law, but hopefully they'll meet theirs
because they'll be around because people like me will be
around." To learn more about the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund, or make an
online donation, visit wbca.org/kayyowwbcacancerfund.asp.