12KayYowCumberland County Schools will participate in the annual Play4Kay charity fundraiser during the month of January.

Play4Kay is named in memory of former NC State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow. It was started during the 2004-05 basketball season when the cancer that eventually led to the longtime coach’s death recurred.

In 2007, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund was established, and games were played annually to help raise money for cancer research.

The plan for Play4Kay games is simple. Schools pick a regular-season game and designate it as a Play4Kay game. The game is used to help raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and also to recognize cancer survivors on the court during the game.

Schools are encouraged to sell official Play4Kay shirts, which can be customized with each school’s logo or sponsor.

Chasity Melvin, a star at Lakewood High School who went on to play for Yow at NC State and enjoyed a successful career in the WNBA, is the coordinator of development for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

Late last year, she paid a visit to Fayetteville and spoke to the athletic directors of the 10 Cumberland County senior high schools about what Play4Kay is all about and what playing for Coach Yow meant to her.

“Coach Yow was instrumental in helping me become a great player on and off the court from 1994-98 and throughout my professional career,’’ Melvin said.

“I’m proud to say that the Kay Yow Cancer Fund has been a huge success in funding grants for advancements in research and serving the underserved, which was a big part of Coach Yow’s vision. I’m passionate about having every school host a Play4Kay, whether it’s this season, next season or the next season.’’

Melvin has a picture of Yow in her office, and she said she talks to it like Yow is still here. “I get excited when a school tells me they are hosting a game,’’ Melvin said. “I look up at my picture of Coach Yow and say, ‘There’s another one.’”

Melvin said she can hear Yow’s voice saying,“Good job Chasity, but I know you can do more.’’

And Melvin agrees. “Because of each of you, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund can continue to do more and continue the vision of our fellow North Carolinian, Kay Yow,’’ she said.

Here are the dates for the Play4Kay games the Cumberland County Schools will be hosting:

Jan. 5 - Hoke County at Jack Britt, Pine Forest at Cape Fear.

Jan. 8 - Douglas Byrd at Westover.

Jan. 10 - Overhills at E.E. Smith.

Jan. 12 - E.E. Smith at Gray’s Creek.

Jan. 19 - Pinecrest at Seventy-First.

Jan. 23 - Pine Forest at South View.

Jan. 26 - Douglas Byrd at Terry Sanford.

Jan. 30 - E.E. Smith at Pine Forest, Overhills at Douglas Byrd.

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