For UConn and others #Play4Kay game more than just basketball

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All over the country, from coast to coast, during the month of February women’s basketball turns their collective consciousness toward raising awareness and funds to fight breast cancer in the name of the late great coach Kay Yow, who lost her fight to the disease five years ago after  a legendary career at North Carolina State.

On a snowy Valentine’s Day, the 2014-15 edition of the Connecticut Huskies hosted Tulane in an American Conference matchup that was also their annual “Play4Kay” game. The outcome of the game was similar to most other UConn games this season, an 87-39 victory, but it was not a usual game for the team.

The Huskies wore their specially designed uniforms, with the pink ribbon emblem of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund in the background, and there was pink trim along with the usual red and blue colors. (Note: the uniforms are being auctioned here). For shooting shirts they wore a white shirt with the words “United We Fight” in pink on them.

Before the game, however, the Huskies personalized the event, giving it further meaning to the team members, by bringing to center court breast cancer survivors who were then acknowledged to the crowd individually, and presented with one of those shirts, but with their own names on it by one of the Husky players.

“If you’re not careful, these things become just ‘hey we’re having a pink game’ and it becomes almost, yeah it’s what we do every February,” said head coach Geno Auriemma. “Having the people come out to half court though, and have our kids interact with them, I think made it really personal, so I enjoyed that, the way we did that.”

The significance of just this small interaction was not lost on the players either.

“It (wearing the special uniforms) means a lot to me,” said Morgan Tuck. “My grandmother is a breast cancer survivor, so I’ve kind of had a first hand account of what it can do to a person and what they have to do to get through it. I think it means a lot, especially when we gave out the shirts,to the survivors at the beginning of the game. I think it’s showing they do have support. Fighting cancer is something I can’t imagine and for them to do it, even the people that lose the fight with it, it’s something that they need all the support they can get. I also like the fact the games raise a lot of money for research, so all around, it’s just a good cause.”

That sentiment was echoed by point guard Moriah Jefferson.

“I got to give them the shirt and a hug, but we didn’t get a chance to talk to them,” she said. “I know a lot of people that went through breast cancer actually, and to play in this game and play for something or someone, and have the survivors out on the court before the game really meant a lot to me.”

The Kay Yow Cancer Fund was founded prior to the death of coach Yow in conjunction with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and the V Foundation, with a mission of “being a part of finding an answer in the fight against women’s cancers through raising money for scientific research, assisting the underserved and unifying people for a common cause.”

Since the Fund’s inception, $3.93 million has been granted for scientific research and related programs focused on women’s cancers, and the fund will raise money all over the country through the commitment of colleges and universities at all levels hosting #Play4Kay games.

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