Thursday, February 7, 2008

Suits with sneakers, all for a good cause

Basketball coaches across Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will be wearing tennis shoes with their suits Friday night to support the American Cancer Society.

This is the third year CMS high schools are joining the fight against cancer with special Coaches vs. Cancer events at basketball games.

Providence High School men’s basketball coach Myron Lowery started the program at CMS three years ago. He lost his brother, Mark, to cancer in 1996 and was looking for a way to honor his memory.

"I wanted my players to do something," said Lowery. "It’s one thing to collect money for a cause, but I wanted them to work on an activity and really make a difference. I heard about the Coaches vs. Cancer program, did some research and we brought it to Providence High."

Providence students raised more than $9,000 that first year. Students collected money in the stands, took pledges for the number of free throws they could shoot and held an auction.

"It was amazing," said Lowery. "That first year, the fans really got involved. Many of them dressed up for the game and wore tennis shoes to show their support."

Coaches vs. Cancer is a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. It started in the early 1990’s and today, more than 500 college coaches and more than 100 high school coaches are involved.

Coaches vs. Cancer has raised nearly $40 million to support the American Cancer Society.

Last year, more CMS schools joined the program and raised more than $12,000 for Coaches vs. Cancer. This year, all CMS high schools are participating. Students are selling paper basketballs in honor of friends and relatives affected by cancer, schools are encouraging staff and parents to donate and basketball players are making as many free throws as possible to collect on pledges.

"It’s incredible," said Lowery. "I tell my players they have to get outside their bubble and help people in need. Now I know they understand why this is important."