WHEELING Oak Glen and Magnolia high schools and their fans teamed up to raise the most locally for the American Cancer Society in the annual Coaches vs. Cancer "Suits and Sneakers Awareness Weekend" during a girls basketball game.
Dr. Gregory Merrick, director of the Wheeling Hospital's Schiffler Cancer Center, Urologic Research Institute and Men's Health Center, once again joined with area basketball coaches to increase cancer awareness and raise funds for the ACS during the event.
Coaches vs. Cancer, a collaborative initiative of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and ACS, was sponsored locally by the Urologic Research Institute the weekend of Jan. 25-27.
Area high school and college coaches wore sneakers instead of dress shoes to raise awareness of cancer, and fans were encouraged to contribute to the ACS.
Locally, this year's Coaches vs. Cancer event raised more than $4,800 for the ACS, with the largest collection taken at the Oak Glen/Magnolia high school game. Plaques were presented to Oak Glen and Magnolia schools in recognition of their efforts.
Other high school teams participating included Bishop Donahue, Bridgeport, Brooke, Buckeye Local, Edison, Indian Creek, John Marshall, Linsly, Parkersburg South, Shadyside, St. Clairsville, University, Weirton Madonna, Wheeling Central and Wheeling Park. Participating colleges included Wheeling Jesuit University and West Liberty University. The YMCA of Wheeling JB Chambers Branch also participated in the event.
By lacing up sneakers with their suits, participating coaches nationwide highlighted the fact that while cancer remains a major health concern, everyone can take daily steps to reduce their risk of the disease.
Before each game, information on the importance of cancer awareness was shared with the fans.
"By using the celebrity of basketball and its participants, Coaches vs. Cancer has raised in excess of $85 million for the ACS research and patient assistance programs. Importantly, these funds help support our local families in their time of need," Merrick said. "Basketball events are an excellent venue to increase awareness of men's health. In addition to Coaches vs. Cancer, each year we host the Cancer Research Classic, the nation's premier Catholic high school basketball tournament, and a Basketball Coaches Clinic; men's health is a primary focus at each event. The support of the schools, coaches and community has been outstanding."
Participants on Merrick's Coaches vs. Cancer team to cover as many games as possible included Drs. Angelo Georges, Jeremy Tiu, Christopher Mascarenhas, Wayne Butler and Jonathan Lief. Other team participants included Nursing Staff Development Manager Cara Gazdik; Schiffler Cancer Center RN Debbie Zeroski; Schiffler Nurse Practitioner Domenique George; and Schiffler Clinical Research AssistantBonnie Funkhouser. ACS representatives also were on hand at the games to accept the funds donated by the fans in giant sneakers.
"This is a special program that Dr. Merrick and the Schiffler Cancer Center do each year because it brings the coaches, players, referees and fans to one level," said Michelle Chappell, ACS West Virginia mission delivery director. "We all have been affected by cancer in one way or another, so together we have combined our efforts with the high schools and college coaches from across the Ohio Valley raising awareness and funds to help the American Cancer Society create a world with less cancer and more birthdays."