Community rallies behind Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser

Assisting in the fight against cancer, Mahomet-Seymour High School decked out its players, fans and visiting opponents in a sea of pink during its 10th annual Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser last Friday during the varsity girls' basketball game at 6 p.m. and the varsity boys' basketball game at 7:30 p.m.

Raising more than $40,000 for the American Cancer Society throughout the years, M-S varsity boys' basketball coach Chad Benedict said the tradition began on a more personal note.

"We started Coaches vs. Cancer with the National Basketball Coaches Association, reaching out to high school coaches to help promote the program and expand it," Benedict said. "At the time, we had a player in our program, Nick Guth, who had cancer at a young age and had beat it. His mother, Jill Guth, helped organize our first few events and we have been going strong ever since."

Performing during both games' halftimes, coach Margaret Miller's MSHS dance team provided audience entertainment for the cause.

"They really like that they get to perform for the girls' and boys' basketball teams," Miller said. "It (Coaches vs. Cancer) brings all of the teams together to do something to support people in our community and beyond our community."

Rooting from the sidelines, the MSHS cheerleaders motivated the girls' and boys' basketball teams as they each faced Lincoln Community High School.

"They enjoy putting a smile on people's faces and helping to possibly make someone's day just a little bit better than it was before," MSHS cheer coach Morgan Scott said. "It's great to be part of a community that comes together to support those who are going through a difficult time."

Area businesses donated 21 raffle items and 13 silent auction items with the help of 20 volunteers in the Mahomet-Seymour High School commons area during both varsity girls' basketball and boys' basketball games.

"Everybody has always been very supportive," volunteer Becky Benedict said. "There's a fair number of survivors who come out to support the program, and it's good for the kids to give back."

Raffle and silent auction items included a $77 value Village of Mahomet Parks and Recreation youth sports program gift card, a signed Scottie Pippen basketball, a Paint Like Me gift card and much more.

"It takes a lot of work organizing an event like this and we are appreciative of time and efforts of our parents, coaches, players administrators, community members and local businesses that dedicate their time to the event and donate items for the silent auction," said Nathan Seal, the Mahomet-Seymour varsity girls' basketball coach.

Pink T-shirts were sold the week prior to the game during students' lunch hour for $10 per shirt, and with few remaining at the beginning of the fundraiser, volunteers Amy Penick and Stephanie Denby were hopeful they would sell out before the end of the evening.

Providing a meaningful experience for volunteer Hope Wheeler, Coaches vs. Cancer provides an opportunity for those affected by cancer to feel supported in the community.

"I lost my mom (Karent Kuhns) to cancer last September. She was a lifelong Mahomet resident and lost her 10-year battle to cancer. It (Coaches vs. Cancer) means a lot," Wheeler said. "Cancer affects so many people and this event brings out a lot of the community."

For Dawn Finch, mother of varsity boys' basketball player Dawson Finch and junior varsity boys' basketball player Braden Finch, Coaches vs. Cancer is a great way to "draw everyone together," she said.

"The crowd grows bigger every year," Dawn Finch added. "It helps kids and adults seeing the support."

Providing an outpouring of support was Chad Benedict's goal in continuing the long-standing tradition.

"It has become one of my favorite nights of the year," Chad Benedict said. "I hope that our school and community see the value of coming together for a cause greater than themselves.

"I am not sure our students truly appreciate it at the time," he added, "but when they get older, they can refer back to this experience and use it as inspiration to help others in need. We hope that the Coaches vs. Cancer event provides our young people with an experience that teaches them that they can make a difference."

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