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Women’s basketball team advocates for breast cancer awareness

Published on February 15, 2023

Women’s basketball team advocates for breast cancer awareness

Eastern's Women's Basketball Team honors breast cancer survivors at center court.

During a recent women’s basketball game, Eastern Connecticut State University athletes, coaches and Athletic Department staff met an objective that extended far beyond beating their opponent. 

On  Feb.  4, the women’s basketball team dedicated its game to raising donations — and awareness — for breast cancer research. Following Eastern’s 70-46 victory over Castleton University, the team honored 15 breast cancer survivors at center court. Women’s head coach Denise Bierly organized the event along with the Center for Community Engagement (CCE). The team’s ‘Play for K’ fund raised approximately $4,500 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation — the world’s largest nonprofit source of funding for the fight against breast cancer.

“I just want to thank you for supporting the women’s basketball team’s breast cancer awareness game,” said Bierly. “After the game, I went to the locker room and our players said, ‘Coach, that was so good and inspiring.’ They had long forgotten about the game they just won.  Hopefully we can get more women to attend next year to honor those that are fighting breast cancer.”

Initially, the team set a fundraising goal of $1,500. However, with assistance from the CCE, the team was able to raise $3,500 before the game’s tip-off. During the game, student volunteers from the CCE accepted donations from attendees. They also sold t-shirts and wristbands to raise additional funds for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

“We wanted the survivors to feel our love and support, because no warrior fights alone,” Bierly said. “Our goal was to raise $1,500, and we raised almost $4,500. All I can say is, wow!”

In a grand gesture of support, fans, athletes, coaches, players and referees were all adorned in pink garments to represent their respect for breast cancer fighters and survivors. Kya Mayo, sophomore shooting guard for the women’s team, used her digital design expertise to create a t-shirt that incorporated the event’s slogan — “No Warrior Fights Alone!”

“It felt amazing to be a part of an event where we can raise money and awareness for something that personally impacts so many people’s lives,” Mayo said. “Meeting women with so much power and strength was truly inspiring. I hope that Eastern continues to hold events like this in the future, so we can help make an impact, educate others and fight for a worthy cause!”

Mayo’s teammate, senior captain Julie Keckler, helped by working collaboratively with the CCE and creating fliers to promote the event. Keckler’s involvement was integral. Her advocacy and marketing of the event helped garner significant attention across social media. Her efforts prompted family, friends, alumni and those who couldn’t attend the game to donate money to the team’s fund.

“We wanted this event to be about acknowledging survivors and the importance of spreading breast cancer awareness,” Keckler said. “It was a great honor to be part of something that recognizes women’s empowerment. Many people have lost loved ones to this battle, so it was great to see young women gathering to honor and support these survivors and their cause.”

The event concluded with Coach Bierly reminding women to bolster prevention and detection rates by getting their yearly mammograms. She also urged women to advocate for themselves if they feel like their health is at risk. She also thanked those who donated and gave former team mother and breast cancer survivor La Shawn McBride, an opportunity to address those in attendance.

“Together we stand, ever so grateful to be here,” said McBride. “No warrior fights alone. We need others to help us on this difficult journey of diagnosis, treatment and even post-treatment. I’m overwhelmed being here with these beautiful women, who have gone through the struggle; but we are here. Thank you all for supporting our journey.”

Eastern’s Susan G. Komen fund will remain open for donations until the end of the month.

Written by Jack Jones