Basketball’s Fork Cancer night produces a meaningful donation

Basketball is about more than just jump shots, rebounds and the occasional full-court press. That fact was made abundantly clear on Thursday at Northwestern State’s annual Fork Cancer night.

With the combined efforts of both the men’s and women’s teams, the generous fans in attendance and the many more that gave through text donations, NSU raised more than $2,500 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“It’s something that is really near and dear to me,” women’s head coach Anna Nimz said. “I’ve been a head coach for 13 years and it’s something that I’ve made sure we’ve done every year.”

Like most, Nimz, who spearheaded the fundraising effort, has a personal connection to cancer and the effect that it has on people and their families. Her sister-in-law was diagnosed with stage four skin cancer and given one year to live. Now 10 years later, she is Nimz’ “biggest miracle ever” and serves as the inspiration for the efforts to raise money for St. Jude.

“Her and I having a conversation one time, and it was when she wasn’t feeling too good, even though you could never tell because she’s just tough as nails,” Nimz recalled. “She said ‘I would take cancer for the rest of my life if it meant kids didn’t have to.’ That was the year I switched my fundraising efforts to St. Jude.”

St. Jude is supported primarily through donations like the one that will be presented from NSU. No families are ever given a bill from the hospital for treatment, travel, housing or food, an amount that would be on average $425,000.

The money raised on Thursday could be used for 166 new toys for kids receiving care, feed a family every day for more than two months or provide 600 IVs for patients.

Those tangible connections to where and how the money would be used also inspired the NSU student-athletes to go above and beyond to help and may have contributed to the Lady Demons’ success on the court.

“What we talked about today in the huddle was not about the amount, they’re college kids, but you’d be amazed at some of the things they donated,” Nimz said. “It’s emotional to know what they donated. It’s always about something much bigger than basketball and we were able to teach that today. As excited as I am about the win, my heart’s on fire for the selflessness that the girls showed.”

Since opening in 1962, St. Jude has increased the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent.

Photo: Lauren Krupica