Men's Basketball Teams Up In Fight Against Cancer
Feb. 5, 2005
Story courtesy of www.gonzaga.edu
Abby Grant was a typical 9-year-old, active in sports and school, when she was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer, Ewing's sarcoma, last summer. That news rocked the household of Dale ('85) and Joanie (Forsberg '86) Grant, a pair of Gonzaga alums who have made a nice home for their family in Rogers, Ark. The Grants also have a 13-year-old son Nick.
Abby has courageously endured months of chemotherapy by counting her own blessings and developing ways to help others. Helping others is nothing new to Abby, however. Her mother says she once suggested they offer their house to poor people who couldn't afford one for themselves. She later set out to collect money for the poor - a one-girl relief effort. Now she has developed blue rubber bracelets, similar to the yellow Live Strong bracelets, that she calls "Grant Me Strength" bracelets. They sell for $5 and already have raised more than $3,000 for charitable causes in the Rogers and Little Rock areas.
But the best thing that's happened to her, she says, is the day she got to spend with the Gonzaga Bulldog men's basketball team in Oklahoma City. The Zags were there Dec. 28 to play Oklahoma State (Zags win 78-75). Checking into their hotel, the Grants ran into several members of the Bulldog team.
"(Gonzaga senior center) Ronny Turiaf walks up to Dale and says 'where's our girl' and Dale pointed to the car," Joanie Grant said. "Ronny walked over, opened the car door and gave Abby a big hug, and that's how her day started! It only got better..."
"Assistant Coach Tommy Lloyd invited us to the shoot-around where Abby was able to give the coaching staff, trainers and players their "Grant Me Strength" wristbands. Coach Few said some very kind words and invited the kids to sit on the bench during the game to help out with water. Nick and Abby looked at each other with wide grins and said thanks," Joanie said.
"During the shoot-around Coach Lloyd introduced us to Fran Fraschilla and Dave Pasch from ESPN. That visit turned into a halftime show on Abby during the game broadcast the next night.
"We arrived at the game a little early and were seated right behind the team. The excitement was overwhelming. We saw so many blue bands. Once again, Ronny saw Abby and said, 'give me a hug'. (Freshman guard) David Pendergraft asked Abby if she would wear his band for good luck: needless to say she was in 7th heaven," Joanie said.
"What an experience for the kids to sit behind the team and hear the coaches and players in conference at every time-out. Our Zags played great, and went on to win in complete Zag style. You may think our evening ended there, but no, it still gets better...
"Coach Lloyd invited us to the locker room after the game and we got to 'hang out' with the guys and congratulate them on their win. They are a FUN group to be around. Coach Lloyd invited us to the press conference. We walked in while Coach Few was commenting on his players and how they played. He amazes me with his ability to show so much respect to other players and coaches. He was complimenting everyone else on their ability to get the job done. What a gracious man. People often say that the Bulldogs are an unselfish team, and I can clearly see that it starts at the top," Joanie said.
"Coach Few ended the press conference by introducing Abby and the rest of our family. He explained a little about her condition and said, 'Abby, we won the game for you.' Dale and I were holding back tears. This entire team, the trainer, manager and coaching staff (Coaches Few, Lloyd, Bill Grier, Leon Rice and Jerry Krause) went so far out of their way to make Abby feel special that it is unbelievable. They are true Champions. They walk the walk.
"As we left the Ford Center Abby looked up at me and said this was better than any Make-A-Wish she could have asked for! Thank you Gonzaga."
The GU basketball team also has been actively involved with several other cancer-stricken children in the local area, and welcomed a dozen of them to a home game in December. Coach Few and wife Marcy are co-chairs of the Coaches vs. Cancer drive, which in 2004 netted over $400,000 for cancer care and research.
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