MURFREESBORO – A national effort came home Saturday.
Chowan University became a first-time participant in the WBCA PinkZone initiative, a global effort of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses and in communities.
Chelsea Haines, the assistant women’s basketball coach at Chowan, led the initial effort to have Chowan join more than 1,200 other schools in promoting breast cancer awareness and attempting to raise funds for the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund.
Yow, a great spokesperson for breast cancer and the coach of the North Carolina State University women’s basketball team, succumbed to cancer earlier this year at the age of 66.
“It’s a strong effort of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association which I’ve been a member of for the past several years,” said Haines, who is her first season with the Hawks. “I think it’s a great way to get to increase awareness and a great way to bring recognition to the sport.”
Haines also worked with the program during her time at Lynchburg College.
“I’m pleased with the turnout,” she said after the event. “The fans were great. I also think the players bought into it and made it an event.”
Hawks’ head women’s basketball coach Pat Mashuda, who was decked out in a pink shirt and tie, said he was pleased for his team and the university to be part of such a worthwhile event.
“It was a great honor for us to be part of the Pink Zone effort with over 1,200 other schools,” Mashuda said. “I’m certainly proud that we are one of them. To come in here tonight and finish out the season the way we did in front of this crowd that was here for a great cause was special.”
The coach was quick to credit Haines and Senior Woman Administrator Meredith Long for making the event a success.
“I knew I wanted us to be involved, but they made it happen,” he said.
The event was well-attended with more than 400 people in attendance at the Helms Center for Saturday night’s Chowan matchup with Columbia Union University.
Included among the athletic staff supporting the cause were Chowan University Athletic Director Dennis Helsel, head baseball coach Aaron Carroll, head softball coach Mandi Balduff, women’s soccer coach Jodi Clugston, men’s sSoccer coach Ken Miller, golf coach Ellen Ordnung and volleyball coach Peter Green.
Helsel said he was proud of the effort made by the coaches and Long.
“It’s a little personal to me,” Helsel said. “My mother died of cancer at age 42 after a five-year battle. Anything people do to raise awareness for cancer I think is phenomenal. I’m proud that our staff got involved in this event.”
Helsel also said he believed it was an important way for the university to get more involved in the community.
“It’s good for Chowan to be able to honor people in the community,” Helsel said. “We don’t honor the community members as much as we should, but introducing survivors at halftime is a good way to pay tribute to them.”
The AD also said he thought introducing cancer survivors was a good lesson for the student-athletes at the school.
“If I’m a coach, I want my student-athletes to battle against all odds,” Helsel said. “Maybe the odds are against them, maybe the officials are against them, maybe someone’s hurt, but they still battle.
“What better way to show a student-athlete what a fighter is than people who have survived cancer,” he added. “They are fighting a life-and-death battle which is so much more important than anything you experience on the court.”
Carroll said he was there to support the cause because he believed everyone was touched by the disease.
“I think everyone has had someone close to them who has either died of cancer or fought this awful disease,” he said. “I’m the same way.
“I have heard many say they will never find a cure for cancer, but I think they will in my lifetime,” he said. “Anything we can do to promote that happening, I’m all for.”
The cause also had the support of those in the stands.
Karl and Lorraine Bethea, the parents of Chowan University freshman Nichelle Bethea, were both in the audience and wearing pink to support the breast cancer awareness.
“I support health,” Lorraine Bethea said. “I’m a Registered Nurse and a Hospice nurse, so I’ve worked with a lot of cancer patients. I know the importance of awareness, so whenever someone tried to get the word out about cancer or any illness, I want to play a part in that.”
Karl Bethea said he lost his sister to the deadly disease.
“I want to stress the importance of getting tested and promoting good health in the form of eating right and exercising,” he said. “They are important in the area of prevention.
“We were aware of coach Yow’s battle and the fact that she touched so many lives, not just on the court,” he added.
Pat Hodges was also in attendance at the contest and said cancer awareness was close to her heart.
“I think it’s a great event,” she said. “My mother has cancer so it has a lot of meaning for me. I’m glad Chowan is involved with such a program.”
Gattis Hodges, the voice of the Hawks, said he was also happy to see the school involved in such a program.
“I think it’s great for Chowan University to take part in it,” he said. “You can never create enough awareness about something this serious.”
Long said the university simply wanted to do their part to spread awareness about breast cancer and support the memory of coach Yow.
“We received donations from various teams on campus and offered signed basketballs and other door prizes,” Long said. “The proceeds will benefit the WBCA/Kay Yow Cancer Fund which is certainly an important cause.”
She said the reason for the program was simple.
“There is not a person in this building that has not been touched by the ripple of cancer,” she said. “It is important for us to join forces to raise awareness, recognize survivors and honor those who have lost their lives to this vicious disease.”
The event is likely to become an annual occurrence, she said.
“Once we get our feet wet this year and learn, we’ll hope to make improvements each year,” Long said.