Valparaiso women’s basketball to honor cancer survivors before game vs. UIC
By Ryan Haskell Post-Tribune correspondent February 15, 2013 7:34PM
Updated: March 17, 2013 6:49PM
The Valparaiso University women’s basketball program is set to honor local cancer survivors on Saturday afternoon as part of the “Play 4Kay” effort before its 1:05 p.m. game against UIC at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
Former Portage High School girls basketball coach and current VU Group Sales Coordinator Renee Turpa has been in charge of this event for the past five years.
“My younger sister (Michele Drennan, nee McGasfic) died of cancer so this is something near and dear to my heart,” Turpa said. “She was just 42; she died three days before her 43rd birthday and she had a 6-year-old and 8-year-old.
“This is an amazing event and the funds go to research for females with cancer. All the cancer survivors will be honored before the game; they will stand with the officials during the national anthem and they can bring a guest.”
The event is named for former N.C. State coach Sandra Kay Yow, who coached from 1975 to 2009. She was named to the Naismith Hall of Fame and had more than 700 career wins. She also coached the 1988 U.S. team to the Olympic gold medal despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987.
The four-time survivor was the first recipient of the ESPY for Perserverance award in 2007 and died Jan. 24, 2009.
Turpa said there are about 20 women set to be honored on Saturday but would love to see more call her office to be a part of the event.
“We try to perk it up a little bit,” Turpa said. “The first 250 people will get giveaways and we give out 125 ‘K’ t-shirts. It’s about awareness.”
Some cancer survivors to attend to be honored are a three-time survivor and four-time survivor. There will also be a woman who has been cancer-free for 35 years.
VU coach Tracey Dorow said that these women astound her.
“If we didn’t have people like Kay Yow pave the way, these young women wouldn’t have any idea what some of these women went through. It means a lot to have them here. These women are fighting for their lives in some instances and they’re out supporting us. They are at a basketball game and hopefully going to have a good time.
“These women are amazing. These women have families and jobs and some are single moms and I don’t think a young adult can comprehend just what some of these have gone through to get here. So it’s important they see something like this.”
Turpa is proud to be in charge of the event.
“They are my heroes every time they come,” she said. “They revel in seeing each other and everytime they get a standing ovation and I think it’s cool.”
Anyone interested in being a part of this event can email Turpa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the women’s basketball office at (219) 464-5146.