Jayhawk Insider: Bigger than Basketball
By: Sophie Darting
On Sunday, Kansas women’s basketball supported the fighters, admired the survivors and honored the taken while raising cancer awareness.
The matchup against Texas Tech was KU’s annual ‘Jayhawks for a Cure’ game, which is an ongoing, department-wide initiative that spans across numerous sports at Kansas in an effort to raise funds and awareness for cancer research.
One of the many traditions featured in KU women’s basketball’s ‘Jayhawks for a Cure’ game is the shooting shirt auction. Ahead of the game, fans get a chance to bid on shooting shirts worn by the Jayhawks during the contest. The winning bidder is allowed to choose the name that appears on the back of the shirt.
For one family – the Youngs – this game is extra special. Terry Young didn’t earn the winning bid on just one shirt, but picked out the names on the back of seven shooting shirts this year.
“My mom, two of Amanda’s grandmother’s died of cancer, I’ve had three sisters with breast cancer and Amanda’s best friend died of cancer,” said Young. “So this game is a big deal to us. For us to see her grandmother’s names on that court, to see my mother’s name out there, it’s very special.”
Having so many family members and friends affected by cancer, Young has bought multiple shirts the last couple of seasons.
“We usually buy six shirts, but this year we bought seven,” Young said. “My best friend was diagnosed with cancer in October, so we bought another one this year.”
Among the Jayhawks that donned the name of one of the Young’s loved ones on their shooting shirt was senior Kylee Kopatich. The Jayhawk wearing each name is randomly selected, but each one special for both the fan and Jayhawk alike.
The Youngs have been watching Kopatich play since she was a freshman and have been bidding on shirts as long as she can remember.
“I think I have been able to wear the name of someone in their family for the past three years,” Kopatich recalled. “Terry will always run up to me after the game and tell me, ‘You were wearing my best friend’s shirt or you were wearing Amanda’s best friend’s shirt.’ It’s just great because they are our biggest supports, so this is the least I can do to pay it back to them.”
Terry and her daughter, Amanda, make the drive to Allen Fieldhouse from Topeka for almost every home game. The mother-daughter duo are some of the team’s biggest supporters. Amanda was even named the Sixth Man in 2016, an award that is given out to an outstanding KU fan each season.
After being supporters of not only this cause, but also the team as a whole for years, this game has a very personal touch for the Youngs that can’t be duplicated.
“We’ve still got shirts from years ago,” said Young. “This game is incredibly personal for me because when you have that kind of cancer in your family, just knowing that hopefully that money will go towards people who need help, even just bidding on the auction.”
Kopatich has played in this game for four years now and she knows how special this game is for Kansas fans, including the Youngs. The team is aware that they are playing for more than a win on the court.
“It puts a little more fight in us and playing for someone else is just an honor in so many ways,” Kopatich said.
‘Jayhawks for a Cure’ is about more than names on a shirt, it brings people together to raise awareness and stand together against cancer, a disease that affects so many people. What Terry Young is really hoping for, is that this game is no longer needed some time in the future, after a cure has been found. To her, this game is a giant step in the right direction.
“It is so impressive that these girls will play this game, raise the awareness and hopefully they can raise enough money to help Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the KU Cancer Center,” said Young. “That’s our goal. That someday they fight it enough that there aren’t people having to go through what my friend is going through.”
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