Jimmy Valvano and the V Foundation put a face on cancer for the college basketball world. The V Foundation has donated over 100 million dollars since its founding. In the grant world these donations are often used as seed money. They'll donate for a feasibility study, or to pay for a non-profits staff time to develop larger projects, and so that money has been leveraged to generate over 1 billion dollars in research. The size of these numbers are staggering. Which is a good thing.
The Pat Summit Foundation is trying to do something similar for Alzheimer's research.
While these foundations are impressive, an unintended side effect is that they can often cause the smaller stories to go overlooked.
The amount of community service college athletes put in dwarfs the service put in by the general population. This is one of the great wins for college athletics. Student athletes get to help others, and sometimes all it takes is showing up.
The Florida Gator front court tandem of Patric Young and Will Yeguete have been spending time with a young leukemia patient. Three-year-old Kaedyn Ballew was first diagnosed when he was less than a year old. He's since had a bone marrow transplant, and his chances of surviving are listed at 50/50. They met him while touring the children's ward at Shands Hospital, and have kept visiting him ever since. During the Gators elite 8 run, Yeguete had Kaedyn's name written on his shoes.
These types of stories are all over college basketball. But the prep game has its share as well.
Today is the 3rd annual Mary Kline Classic. The all-star event is put on by 18-year-old Alex Kline, who made himself into a star in the college recruiting game by the time he was 16. The event raises money for brain tumor research, which is a cause close to his heart. Last year they raised over $20,000, and this year I hope they raise even more.
All of these stories add a depth to the game, a layer that makes watching them more satisfying. The dark side of college athletics gets a tremendous amount of coverage – including at this blog – and all of us writers can probably do a better job highlighting the human interest side.