By Barry Janoff
January 23, 2017: If something seems a bit different during college basketball games this week, that’s because some NCAA 4,000 men’s and women’s coaches and their staffs on teams and in conferences nationwide are trading in their usual on-court attire in favor of sneakers and suits to support Coaches vs. Cancer Suits & Sneakers Awareness Week (Jan. 23-29).
The annual event is under the auspices of the American Cancer Society in partnership with the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Suits & Sneakers raises awareness about the importance of nutrition and physical activity in reducing cancer risk, increases cancer awareness, highlights the importance of nutrition and physical activity in reducing a person’s cancer risk and promotes the American Cancer Society’s free programs and services available to those facing cancer, according to ACS.
Among the head coaches and teams who have filmed supporting spots are Tom Izzy (Michigan State), Phil Martelli (St. Joseph), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Seam Miller (Arizona), Mike Brey (Notre Dame) and Frank Haith (Tulsa).
To help support Suits & Sneakers Week, people can purchase a specially designed pair of gold sneaker laces online or in stores from Shoe Carnival in memory of Lacey Holsworth, a loyal fan of the Michigan State Spartans who passed away from cancer in 2014 at the age off eight.
Funds raised by this effort, which will continue through the end of the college basketball season, will go to Coaches vs. Cancer and Princess Lacey’s Legacy, to fight pediatric cancer.
Pediatric cancer is the second leading cause of death among children ages 1-14 in the U.S.(behind accidents/unintentional injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and it is estimated that in 2016 there were nearly 10,400 new cancer cases diagnosed among children in the U.S., according to ACS.
Princess Lacey’s Laces are available in all Shoe Carnival store locations, and online (while supplies last). Last year, the promotion raised more than $86,000.
"Cancer continues to take the lives of many people we love," Coach Izzo says in his spot to support the campaign. "Including Lacey Holsworth, a little girl with a huge love for life and the basketball program here at Michigan State. Sadly, Lacey didn’t survive her battle with cancer. On behalf of all of us at Michigan State and families everywhere, please help us honor her memory.
"Often we think there is nothing we can do, but there is. Together with Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Cancer Society, you can make a real difference. And help us save more lives from pediatric cancer," said Izzo.
In December, ACS launched its first multi-media campaign to support the Coaches vs. Cancer program, an alliance with the NABC that features college basketball coaches to raise awareness and donations.
The cause marketing campaign, "Come and Play For Us," is built around a TV spot, "The Recruiting Call," that includes such well-respected head coaches as Lon Kruger (University of Oklahoma), Tubby Smith (Memphis), Roy Williams (North Carolina) and Jay Wright (Villanova University).
Since its founding, Coaches vs. Cancer has raised more than $100 million for ACS, according to the NABC.
"We are excited to continue our partnership with Shoe Carnival and Princess Lacey’s Legacy," David Doan, vp-strategic sports alliances, American Cancer Society, said in a statement. "Through this special gold shoelace offer, sports fans are able to join in to the fight against pediatric cancer and support the American Cancer Society’s mission to lead the fight for a world without cancer."
"Often we think there is nothing we can do, but there is. Together with Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Caner Society, you can make a real difference."
Own conjunction with the game-related efforts, a Coaches vs. Cancer Suits And Sneakers Corporate Challenge seeks to engage basketball fans and offers opportunity to do something at their workplace.
ACS said that corporations can join their favorite basketball teams and coaches in the fight against cancer by hosting a Wear Your Sneakers to Work Day. Following the 2017 Suits And Sneakers week, individuals can make a minimum donation of $5 to the American Cancer Society for the opportunity to wear sneakers to work on Monday, Jan. 30, or the first day of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.
According to Sharon Byers, chief development and marketing officer for ACS, "Suits And Sneakers has been an important element of our Coaches vs. Cancer program since coaches first started lacing up in 1993.
"In 2017, for our second year running, we also proudly feature Lacey’s Laces, gold shoelaces in memory of Lacey Holsworth to raise money for pediatric cancer as we continue to reach out to sports fans to help us save more lives from cancer," said Byers.
The American Cancer Society was named a Top Ten Sports Marketer of the Year for 2016 by the staff and editors of NYSportsJournalism.com, for the Coaches vs. Cancer marketing campaign and also for a platform with IMG College, in collaboration with Curing Kids Cancer, "A House United to Tackle Pediatric Cancer." The program "targets college football fans through 12 of IMG’s partner universities to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer."
Voting is currently underway for the Grand Sports Marketer of the Year for 2016.
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