As volleyball practice ended last Tuesday, senior Billi Baker stopped to tell what this weekend’s Dig Pink games in Fleming Gym mean for her.
“My mother is a five-year survivor,” said the senior, who said her mother was cured of breast cancer in 2005. “She will be here for the event.” In the past decade, an aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer. “We lost her.”
Baker says this weekend’s volleyball Dig Pink games will raise breast cancer awareness and also raise money for breast cancer research.
On Friday at 7 p.m, the team hosts College of Charleston. On Saturday, they host The Citadel at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Patrick Nicholas, in his second year as Spartan coach, spoke of his mother, after the practice. In the early 1980s, she had detected a lump, but waited before telling her doctor. “A few months, six months, a year …”
She had surgery. He began college at George Mason. “A year later, they found a spot in her hip.” She had a year or two of heavy chemotherapy, he says, but cancer appeared in other parts of her body as well.
This was decades ago when less could be done.
As an upperclassman, he learned from relatives that it had been much more serious than his mom had told him. “She’d told the doctors to get her to my graduation.”
He found college to be very hard. He was the first in his family to attend. But his mother’s courage and determination motivated him. “She was fighting to get to my graduation,” he thought.” If she can do that, I could finish college.”
He did. A month before commencement, he went home to visit her. She was on morphine, and he held her hand all night. She woke up that morning and told him the doctors thought she’d be at the ceremony. But she died before commencement.
“It’s a nasty disease. If you live long enough, you’ll know somebody with it.”
He added, “We all have an investment in finding a cure for the disease.”
Senior Alissa Beaudway told of grandparents dying of cancer. “It’s something our team is passionate about.”
Sophomore Olivia Humphries said, “I had a cousin die in 2006 of a brain tumor.” He was 13 years old. “You think it’s not going to happen to you. You never know … So many families are affected by [cancer].”
The players said they’ll likely wear as much pink as possible – pink shoelaces perhaps, and pink hair ribbons. They will also wear commemorative pink jerseys.
Nicholas notes you’ll also see slams at over a hundred miles an hour and diving saves in the back line. “You see the power and the grace and the gymnastics” of high level volleyball, while supporting an important cause.
“Come support our team and the fight for a cure for cancer.”
The women’s basketball team has a similar event each winter, called the Pink Zone game. And all Athletics teams are involved in the Relay for Life on campus in the spring.
Everyone who comes to the games to show support, who competes, who perhaps makes a donation are part of something important.
“It’s all Spartans against cancer,” said Nicholas.
More notes about the weekend’s events:
- On Friday against College of Charleston, the first 200 fans will receive pink pom poms. A postgame autograph session with the volleyball team will be held after both of the weekend’s games.
- Two-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor will speak before Saturday’s Citadel match. Hours before the game, she will help lead a sand volleyball clinic on campus through the Greensboro Sportsplex.
- The first 200 fans on Saturday will receive free pink T-shirts. A silent auction will be held before the match, including items autographed by May-Treanor.
- All proceeds raised during the two matches will go toward the Mammography Scholarship Fund at The Women’s Hospital, which provides screening mammograms for women unable to afford them.
- Fans are encouraged to wear pink to the games.
Visual: An autograph session at last year’s Dig Pink event in Fleming Gym.
By Mike Harris
Photograph courtesy Spartan Athletics