Story by JORDON CAHOON
Ask any athlete and they will be sure to tell you that every game means something. Some games are used for practice, some games are played to prove something and some simply mean more than others. Athletes play for many reasons: pride, fame, personal gain through education or financial means. It’s not very often you see an athlete play for charity.
The Swing for Life Foundation started off as a fundraiser during events like home run derbies and skill competitions, and then started to bloom and have entire games devoted to the cause of increasing awareness and funding for breast cancer. At first, the full games were only in women’s sports like softball, soccer, volleyball, and basketball, but as of 2009 it started to branch over into men’s sports.
Kathy Howa started this non-profit organization in April 2003 after being diagnosed with breast cancer in late August 2002.
“I coach high school volleyball and softball,” Howa said. “After my diagnosis, my athletes chose to wear pink ribbons with my name on them to the games and practices.”
It all started with the “strike out cancer hit-a-thon” where the Rowland Hall softball team rallied around Howa to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure. They received $12,000 between them and three other schools at the event.
“It’s no secret that the timing is hard to run any kind of foundation, but it’s amazing to see just how generous and giving people are in such hard economic times,” Howa said. “From our officials and field crews, to the volunteers doing all the behind the scenes work. They give up their time, which could be used to help out their families instead.“
Certain schools, such as Cottonwood High School, have spared no expense in making these games something to be remembered by purchasing pink gloves and shoelaces for football and pink head and wristbands along with shoelaces for basketball games. Some schools, like Brighton and Cottonwood, have had entire uniforms designed in pink just for one game.
“Even though we got killed last year, it was an awesome time just seeing all the people show up,” Matt Olsen, former catcher for the Brighton High School baseball team, said. “Pink isn’t really my color though.”
Since that initial fund raising tournament Howa has donated her time and efforts to her own foundation, Swing for Life, and has set a goal to donate $50,000 each year to Huntsman Cancer Foundation’s breast cancer research program. This goal has become increasingly difficult in recent years as the economy continues to spiral downward, but the foundation has made their goal each year so far.
“The biggest thing to look at isn’t the amount of time, money or effort that goes into these fund raisers, but to show people suffering from breast cancer that there are people trying and fighting for a cure,” Howa said. “Plus, I couldn’t give up the sports that I love.”