By Bob Jackson
YSU team helps raise funds, awareness
The first-time organizer said she’ll get an earlier start with planning next year’s event.
YOUNGSTOWN — For Tera DePaoli, the best part of attending last year’s NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in San Antonio, Texas, wasn’t watching thundering dunks, dazzling ball-hand- ling or three-point shots launched from downtown.
It was an idea.
She brought the idea home to Youngstown, where it came to fruition Saturday when the inaugural Coaches vs. Cancer three-mile walk was held at Youngstown State University’s outdoor track.
Although participation was lower than she’d hoped — about 25 or 30 people showed up to walk — DePaoli said she was encouraged by the turnout and vowed to work harder next year.
“I’d never done anything like this before, so I had no idea what to expect. But we are going to do it again. And we’ll start planning earlier next year,” she said, laughing. “We were blessed with a beautiful day for a walk today.”
Coaches vs. Cancer is a national event sponsored each year in which collegiate coaches and their teams are encouraged to sponsor an event to raise funds and awareness for cancer research, said Margaret Medzie, regional community director for the American Cancer Society. According to the ACS Web site, more than 500 colleges across the country participate, and they have raised more than $40 million since the program’s creation in 1993.
Medzie said she’s unaware of any other colleges in Northeast Ohio that participate. This was the first year at YSU, so she was neither surprised nor discouraged by the modest turnout.
“It’s just an awareness piece that we use to educate the community about cancer,” Medzie said. “The fact that the team is out here to help is wonderful.”
DePaoli’s husband, Brian, is an assistant coach for the YSU men’s basketball team, and the couple attends the Final Four tournament each year.
During last year’s tournament, Tera attended a luncheon for coaches’ wives, and that’s where she first heard about the Coaches vs. Cancer program and decided that she wanted to get involved.
Men’s head basketball coach Jerry Slocum recalled Tera’s telling him about the project while they sat at the airport in San Antonio, waiting to come home after the tournament.
“You could see at the time that she really had a passion for what’s happened here today,” Slocum said, noting that his mother is a cancer survivor for the past 30-plus years.
Slocum and all of his team members and coaches were at the track to meet the public and lead the three-mile walk.
A chance to meet the team, as well as getting in a good walk, is what drew Cathy Pesa and Mark Dolak, both of Austintown, to attend the event. The pair said they are avid walkers, and are members of a club called the Wednesday Walkers.
“I really wanted to meet some of the players,” said Dolak, who said he attends nearly all the home basketball games. “I come out and watch them play. I just wanted to see them up close and maybe get to talk to some of them.”
Artis Gillam Sr. of Youngstown, 66, said he attended for two reasons. First, he’s been on the board of directors for the local American Cancer Society chapter for years. Second, both he and his wife are cancer survivors.
“It’s a wonderful thing for the community,” Gillam said.