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ODU Hosts Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff Breakfast

A crowd of more than 250 gathered in the Big Blue Room of Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center Sept. 29 for the inaugural Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff Breakfast.

With only a few weeks before formal practice starts, the men's and women's basketball coaches from six area colleges and universities took time from their schedules to gather for a morning of engaging speeches and fundraising for cancer research. The breakfast was sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

In a video greeting, all the area coaches spoke about how cancer has touched their lives. ODU men's coach Blaine Taylor said everyone he knows has been impacted in some way. "My father passed away from cancer. My mother is a breast cancer survivor. I have friends who are fighting cancer right now."

ODU women's coach Wendy Larry said it's inspiring to hear the work that's being done to find a cure for cancer. "It just fires you up," she said. "It could be this year, this month, this hour that some researcher finds that magic cure to help people beat cancer."

Former coach and ESPN basketball announcer Bob Valvano headlined the event. Valvano's brother Jim died of cancer in 1993, a decade after leading the North Carolina State Wolfpack to the most unlikely of NCAA championships. In his memorable speech on ESPN shortly before he died, Jim Valvano urged cancer survivors and their families to "never give up."

Bob Valvano helps direct a charitable foundation established in his brother's name that has raised more than $100 million for cancer research. But he said more needs to be done. "It's not good enough yet. We can do more. We have to do more," he said.

Former Granby High School and University of Maryland coach Lefty Driesell, and former ODU coach Paul Webb served as honorary chairs of the event.

Driesell said he coached for so long that a number of his former players have died of cancer. "Hopefully, one day we will find a cure for cancer," Driesell said.

Webb related the story of his own diagnosis with prostate cancer in 2004. He said one of the things that helped him through such a difficult time was believing he was going to beat it. "There's no doubt in my mind I was going to be cured," said Webb, who has been declared cancer-free by his doctor. "But I'm one of the lucky ones. So many people who have or have had cancer are not as fortunate."

Through the national Coaches vs. Cancer program, college and high school coaches work throughout the year to raise funds and awareness about the disease in their schools, communities and across the country. Since 1993, the initiative has raised more than $60 million in support of the American Cancer Society.

This article was posted on: September 24, 2010

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