19 basketballThe Cumberland County Schools have scheduled 10 Play4Kay basketball games this season in memory of the late Kay Yow, the longtime womens basketball coach at North Carolina State University.

The Play4Kay games are held annually to help raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. The games are held by both high school and college teams and are the biggest single source of contributions annually to the fund.
The Kay Yow Cancer Fund was established on Dec. 3, 2007, by Yow during her battle with breast cancer.

She fought the disease for the final 22 years of her life, finally dying in 2009.

Since the Kay Yow Cancer Fund was created, it has given $7.53 million to a variety of programs involved in cancer research. Although Yow suffered from breast cancer, the money donated to the fund is used to help support all forms of cancer research.

According to an article from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, Yow’s oncologist said her life was both extended and enhanced during her fight with cancer because of research on the disease that had been conducted as far back as 20 years or more prior to her death.

Cumberland County Schools didn’t get seriously involved in the Play4Kay fundraisers until a couple of years ago when county student activities director Vernon Aldridge heard a presentation by Chasity Melvin at a state athletic directors conference.

Melvin starred at Lakewood High School and went on to play for Yow at NC State, where she was a Kodak All-American and led the Wolfpack to the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 1998. She set an NCAA semifinal scoring record with 37 points in North Carolina State’s loss to perennial NCAA power Louisiana Tech.

Melvin was the 11th player taken overall in the 1999 WNBA college draft. She spent 12 years as a standout player in the WNBA, playing for the Cleveland Rockers, Washington Mystics and Chicago Sky.
She played in the WNBA All-Star game in 2001.

In addition to her WNBA career, Melvin played professionally in Italy, Israel, Spain, Poland, Russia and China.

At the time she made the presentation to the athletic directors, she was serving as the director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. She moved on to an assistant coaching position with the Greensboro Swarm basketball team, which competes in the NBA’s G League. Last September she was hired as an assistant coach for the women’s team at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Aldridge said that Melvin told the athletic directors that even though the Kay Yow Cancer Fund is based in North Carolina, the state was not the national leader in annual donations to the fund.
Aldridge came back to Cumberland County and addressed the situation to the senior high school athletic directors.

“We felt that was a shame,’’ Aldridge said, that the state wasn’t tops in donations to the fund.

He presented the idea to the athletic directors and suggested their schools take a more active part in the annual Play4Kay fundraising drive.

This year, the Play4Kay fundraisers are scheduled to be held nationally from Feb. 14-24. However, each school is allowed to schedule a fundraising date that is most convenient for the school and doesn’t have to strictly adhere to the dates announced by the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

Cumberland County holds its games earlier than the scheduled Play4Kay dates because the local high school regular season ends on Friday, Feb. 14. The method used to raise the money for the fund is up to each school to decide.
The fundraisers are generally held separate from ticket sales and involve a specific fundraising method that is the choice of each school.

Aldridge said the fundraisers are usually held during both the boys and girls basketball games that are on the Play4Kay schedule.

He said he’s seen county schools engage in a variety of activities to raise money for Play4Kay. Among the activities that have been used include selling T-shirts, baked goods or even passing the hat around the gym during the game designated as the Play4Kay event.

Some schools involve the entire student body and hold fundraisers on campus during the days leading up to the Play4Kay contests. The Kay Yow Cancer Fund also encourages schools to honor cancer survivors at their fundraising events.

“It’s up to each school how they raise funds,’’ Aldridge said. “They all do something different.

“Cancer is a disease that I don’t think anyone in this country can say hasn’t affected someone they know.’ We felt this would be a great cause for us to take on.’’ Aldridge estimates that over the last two years, the county schools have donated $13,000 at its Play4Kay games.

Following are this year’s Play4Kay games that will be hosted by the 10 Cumberland County senior high schools. If you have specific questions about the national Play4Kay effort or the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, call the fund’s office in Raleigh at 919-659-3301.

Jan. 22 - St. Pauls at South View.
Jan.  24 - Pine Forest at Douglas Byrd.
Jan. 28 - Douglas Byrd at E.E. Smith.
Jan. 31 - Douglas Byrd at Cape Fear, Terry Sanford at Gray’s Creek.
Feb. 4 - Purnell Swett at Jack Britt, Scotland at Seventy-First.
Feb. 7 - Terry Sanford at Westover, E.E. Smith at Pine Forest.
Feb. 11 - South View at Terry Sanford.

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