A year ago, there were discussions within the N.C. State athletic department about whether the university should continue to host Hoops 4 Hope - its breast cancer awareness event - since its late founder, Kay Yow, no longer was around to lead the effort.
"It was a resounding, 'Absolutely,' " N.C. State senior women's administrator Michelle Lee said.
And so the N.C. State women's basketball team will host No. 21 Florida State today in the sixth annual Hoops 4 Hope game at Reynolds Coliseum. Doors open at 11 a.m., and tipoff is at 1 p.m.
It's an event that N.C. State officials say they hope to continue for years to come because of what it symbolizes and the funds it raises for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
Last season, the event raised $50,052, which all went directly to cancer research.
"Our goal is always to increase the funding for cancer research, particularly using the Kay Yow Cancer Fund," Lee said. "Bringing awareness to cancer. Really trying to fulfill coach Yow's vision for finding a cure for cancer. That was her goal for starting Hoops 4 Hope."
Yow died on Jan. 24, 2009, after a long battle against breast cancer. She coached at N.C. State for 34 seasons, leaving a legacy of service that coincided with the event's motto: "Hope for early detection, hope for increased survival, hope for a cure."
Last season, the event also served as a celebration of the Yow era as State welcomed a new coach, Kellie Harper. Harper, in her second season, said the event was "inspirational" and definitely sees the value in continuing it in the future.
"It's important that we keep the tradition alive," Harper said. "Obviously, when Coach Yow was here, her fight was very public. It was easy for people to rally around her. She was truly inspirational. We can't forget that just because she's not here."
Women's basketball programs around the nation participate in the WBCA Pink Zone program to raise awareness for breast cancer. Teams host Pink Zone games, and N.C. State's Hoops 4 Hope raised the most money last season.
Wolfpack senior Brittany Strachan said she appreciates the annual event because it allows her to reflect on issues outside of herself. She's reminded how many people the disease has affected, including both of her grandmothers.
"It always makes me reflect on what other people are going through," she said. "I see some of these women going through chemotherapy, and it's like, 'Oh, gosh, Brittany, suck it up.' "
Strachan, who is from Kernersville, said she can see the usefulness of the event occurring well into the future, considering the impact of cancer on society. Plus, she said, Yow would have wanted it that way.
"Coach Yow touched so many people," Strachan said. "Her spirit is always going to be in the event. That in itself is going to help it keep going."
N.C. State's athletic department has convened a committee to oversee and plan for the event year-round, according to assistant media relations director Mark Kimmel.
Lee said the group continues to look for ways to improve fundraising but remains careful to preserve the special elements that make the event unique, such as the halftime recognition segment.
In years past, all cancer survivors in attendance were encouraged to stand on Kay Yow Court at halftime to be recognized by the crowd.
"When you see these women on the court, that's a very powerful moment," Lee said. "That's a real reminder what the cancer fund is for and what the fight is for."
This year, a Walk 4 Kay fundraiser has been added to the campaign. Fans can donate money for a chance to walk next to celebrity walkers such as Harper or men's basketball coach Sidney Lowe or football coach Tom O'Brien. Also, a silent auction opens at 11 a.m.
"It's not the same without Coach Yow, but it's still important," Harper said. "It's how we can keep her legacy alive."
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