UNC cancer center scores Hatchell gift

Staff WriterJune 26, 2010 

A cancer scare a decade ago and a player's diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma are two of the reasons UNC's women's basketball head coach Sylvia Hatchell announced a $50,000 donation Friday to the N.C. Cancer Hospital Pediatric Oncology Endowment Fund.

Hatchell's recent gift tops her purchase 10 years ago of a 204-acre swath of land in eastern Buncombe County that includes a cabin and a patch of blueberry bushes, which are open to the public for picking at the request of a $5 mail-in donation per gallon to the UNC Linberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill.

"It's a great honor to be a part of this, and I've been coming here for several years, and I've been to the children's hospital quite often and through the years I've been involved with the cancer center," said Hatchell, who felt compelled to help after discovering ovarian tumors in 2000 that turned out to be benign.

The donation will help provide educational materials for students at the N.C. Cancer Hospital Pediatric Oncology Classroom, including computer software and books, said Stuart Gold, chief of the division of pediatric oncology.

Hospital teacher Ellen Halody, who works in the oncology unit, said the hospital's schools are part of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District and help more than 500 students a year, with some coming in for just a few days and others staying for weeks at a time.

"The goal is to help students maintain progress and be at the same level as when they leave," Halody said.

Fifth-year senior Jessica Breland, UNC's leading scorer and rebounder for the 2008-2009 season, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in May of 2009 and was treated at the hospital. She is expected to return for the 2010-2011 season.

"Like coach said, I was dreading coming in to get chemo, but the nurses that were here were nice and friendly, and they lifted your spirits up and kept you laughing," Breland said. "The teachers here made it so that every week or two we could try new ways to learn and develop. Like I said, the staff here was great."

The forward's experience in the hospital further encouraged Hatchell to play a more significant role.

"We take so much for granted, not just our health and all, but the facilities we have here, and I was so fortunate this past year when Jessica was diagnosed that we were in a place like this where she could come in for treatment," Hatchell said.

"The folks here were so good to her, and she had her treatments here and everything, and I'm so grateful. This is just a way I can let people know how thankful I am for what they've done for Jessica and all the kids there, and I'm so glad to be able to be here and be in a situation where I can do this."

patricia.lee@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4567

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