Gwinnett schools raise money with Coaches vs. Cancer

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

It's a little friendly competition, but it's one with no real loser.

Starting tonight at Duluth, Gwinnett County's Class AAAAA schools will use this week's high school basketball games to raise money for their Relay For Life groups with the county's first Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser.

A mimic of the annual college basketball event, the boys and girls coaches will wear tennis shoes on the sideline during the games and cheerleaders will scour the crowd at halftime of both varsity games collecting donations.

Coincidentally, today and Friday have an equal number of scheduled games in Region 7-AAAAA and 8-AAAAA, so Mike Emery decided to make the collections a battle between the county's two AAAAA regions.

"At the end of the night on Friday, as we tally up the donations, we are kind of playing this up as, 'Who can raise the most money, Region 7 or 8?'' said Emery, director of athletics, activities and community schools for Gwinnett County Public Schools.

The money collected will be split between the two schools at each game and added to the individual Relay for Life funds.

At the end of the day, it all ends up in the same place.

The idea for this event was generated from myriad sources around the county and it came together rather quickly. Emery, representatives from the local American Cancer Society and former Dacula head football coach and athletic director Kevin Maloof, who retired earlier this year after battling prostate cancer, were all involved in kickstarting the event earlier this month. Dacula High School will raise money during its home games Saturday in the spirit of Friday's event.

Organizers chose the final weekend of January both because of the equitable region games and because the final weekend in January abuts February and the annual Relay for Life kickoff, according to Emery.

"It is something that, once we sat down and talked about it and looked at the logistics and the calendar, we thought we could put it together quickly," Emery said. "(Cancer), unfortunately, is a subject that has touched us all in one way or another. We are still together, we are still one community who can certainly rise up and do good things when we need to."

Brookwood girls coach Scott Terry saw what fundraisers of this kind can accomplish last weekend at Starr's Mill's Girls Night Out when the Broncos played in an event -- complete with pink uniforms -- raising money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. And having lost former player Amanda Riley to cancer over the past year, he knows the disease's impact.

"I think it is a wonderful thing," Terry said of the Coaches vs. Cancer event. "I think that anything we can do and every opportunity that we have to draw attention to such a worthy cause, I think we need to take full advantage of.

"It's a wonderful initiative and I'm excited to see it countywide."

Emery did not commit, but did acknowledge he hopes this can become a yearly event for the county high schools.

"There is nothing negative about this," Emery said. "It's all positive.

"There is no unsuccessful event. It's all good and we know our community supports things like this."