STORRS – It wasn’t intended to be an audition, but about 20 singers, volunteering their time and talent to help the College Program of Geno’s Cancer Team, performed so well that coach Auriemma invited the women to sing before a game at Gampel Pavilion.
Addressing the audience gathered in the student center theater for the fundraiser, the Hall of Fame coach complimented the two a capella groups and then offered to arrange for them to perform at a women’s basketball game this season.
“I want to thank you all for being here tonight to support this event [to benefit the Kay Yow WBCA Breast Cancer Fund and The V Foundation for Cancer Research] and if there’s anything I can do as a member of the faculty to help you out in some way, you know how to get in touch with me,” said a gracious and thankful Auriemma.
The purpose of the event was to bring “together a student-body that has become one as a community over the past couple weeks due to our own campus tragedies,” said Andrew Sullivan, executive director of Geno’s Cancer Team at UConn.
The 90-minute program, honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month, adhered to the theme, “Remember. Celebrate. Believe,” – the motto of Geno’s Cancer Team.
Jim Valvano and Kay Yow
The evening began with brief films celebrating the lives of two nationally renowned basketball coaches, Jim Valvano and Kay Yow, both of whom succumbed to cancer – Jimmy V in 1993 at age 57, and Coach Kay earlier this year at age 67.
Ironically, both reached their coaching heights at North Carolina State. Valvano took the men to an improbable national title in 1983 and Yow reached the women’s Final Four in 1998 after having served as head coach of the gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s basketball team in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
“I’ve known Kay forever,” Auriemma said. “She was a wonderful person.”
Each coach has had a national foundation set up in their honor to raise funds for cancer research, foundations financially nourished nationwide by smaller local groups such as Geno’s Cancer Team.
Guest speaker Barbara Oliver, a 22-year breast cancer survivor who served as executive director of “Y Me? Connecticut” for 16 years, shared her experiences battling the disease which she discovered in its early stages thanks to a self-examination she made almost as an afterthought when she learned that a friend had been stricken with the malady.
“It was a tough time. But I had moxie, I had good family support and I had a great doctor and I listened to him,” Oliver said. “Each woman is an individual case. It’s got to be what the doctors can do for her.”
She pointed out that men are also susceptible to breast cancer, albeit nowhere as much as females, and that many women who are hit with this disease have no family history of breast cancer.
Oliver also delighted the crowd when she showed them a small tattoo of a bird on her forearm, one of many things she decided to do with her “borrowed time.”
“I tell people, ‘don’t give up.’ We’re all tested in life to go through things and have things happen to us. But you don’t want to give up,” she said, echoing Valvano’s slogan which has become the motto of survivors around the world: “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!”
“Women have a special passion for giving and for caring and for nurturing others; I think it’s part of your DNA… wanting to make a difference in someone’s life,” Auriemma said.
Forum on Nov. 10
An open forum to discuss ways to assist this effort is scheduled for Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. at the Student Union and is open to the public.
For information about joining Geno’s fundraising group or to make a donation, visit genoscancerteam.org
“We want you, as individuals, to be part of Geno’s Cancer Team,” Auriemma said.
Posted Oct. 30, 2009