Kay Yow Cancer Fund plays for life

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Since 2012, over 22,000 women in 17 North Carolina counties who otherwise would not have the opportunity have been screened for breast cancer, thanks to two mobile mammography units from UNC Rex Healthcare in Raleigh.

Financing the digital-imaging equipment for the units — at a cost of $115,000 each — has been the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

The Raleigh charity was founded in December 2007 by the late Kay Yow, who was head women’s basketball coach at North Carolina State University and died in 2009 after a 22-year intermittent battle with cancer.

Inspiring her to start the charity was a game, initially known as “Hoops 4 Hope,” that her team at N.C. State played on Feb. 19, 2006, with the University of Maryland.

Since then, mainly through games throughout the U.S. that later were known as “Think Pink,” then “Pink Zone,” and now “Play4Kay,” the Kay Yow Cancer Fund has raised $5.38 million and awarded grants of $1 million each to support research into cancers affecting women at four cancer centers, including UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill.

It also has made grants of $100,000 each to cancer centers in nine cities that have hosted the Women’s Final Four basketball tournament. And it works to serve underserved women by funding programs such as the UNC Rex mammography units.

The charity “was born through the sport of basketball,” says Stephanie Glance, the Fund’s executive director and former associate head coach at N.C. State under Yow. “She saw this as a way to unite coaches, players and communities of women’s basketball.”

Operating with an annual budget of about $600,000 and a staff of five full-time employees, the Fund raises $1 million to $1.5 million a year.

That includes $350,000 to $400,000 generated through 200 to 250 basketball games hosted by teams at colleges and schools throughout the U.S.

It also receives royalties from Nike’s retail sale of apparel and shoes branded with the the Kay Yow Fund’s “Y” logo, and generates revenue from a golf tournament, which will be held in September for the third straight year in Pinehurst, that last year netted $200,000.

And it gets revenue from events that third-parties organize, and in February hosted an inaugural run and walk on the N.C. State campus that netted $20,000.

Through a partnership, the scientific advisory committee at the V Foundation — which also raises money for cancer research and is named for Jim Valvano, the late coach of the N.C. State men’s basketball team — reviews and evaluates grant requests to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, then monitors grants the Fund approves.

And through another partnership, the Fund is the “charity of choice” of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, which encourages its members to support the Fund through an annual game on the schedule of each of their teams.

Now, as it prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary this December with a dinner, the Fund is planning to launch a 10 for 10″ campaign to raise $10,000 each from at least 50 donors. It also plans to create a local golf tournament in Raleigh.

And it aims to generate more revenue from its Play4Kay games, either by increasing the number of games each year to 350 or more, or by increasing the share of revenue it receives from each game.

To help do all that, Glance this spring is visiting nearly 20 Division I conference meetings.

The goal, she says, is to fund more research and provide more underserved women with access to cancer services.

“Every person has  been touched by cancer in some way,” she says. “The Kay Yow Cancer Fund is making a significant impact in the fight against all women’s cancers.”

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