MADISON, Wis. — It was a touching moment, a rare glimpse into the personal life of Badgers head coach Gary Andersen.
Andersen stood before 1,600 University of Wisconsin students who had gathered in April for the campus’ Relay for Life event and shared how cancer had impacted his family, specifically his father- and sister-in-law.
“Ultimately cancer took (my father-in-law’s) life,” Andersen said, “but I don’t believe cancer won because his family is so much better off because of what he was able to do while he had cancer. We learned so much from him as a family.”
Andersen also shared that his sister-in-law is close to full remission from her battle with cancer and thanked all of the caregivers and those that help provide the support and services that cancer patients need to beat the disease.
“I get to go to 10 or 12 cancer events a year and the ability of people to continually give and battle cancer never ceases to amaze me,” Andersen said. “You as young people want to make a difference. When I was a young person, I don’t know if I would have been sitting out there right now… but that’s what Wisconsin is. That’s what the Midwest is. It wants to give back to people.”
Andersen was joined by his players and student-athletes from the Wisconsin men’s and women’s soccer and women’s track teams that volunteered their time to help out at the Relay for Life, which raises funds for the American Cancer Society to aid cancer research and patient care.
The Badgers helped greet participating cancer survivors, make luminaria bags for the luminaria ceremony, work a photo booth and sell food and raffle tickets.
“The student-athletes brought great energy and were incredibly kind and helpful to all participants,” said Caitlin DeVos, senior advisor with Colleges Against Cancer. “They did a great job interacting with more than 40 cancer survivors we had in attendance and making them feel welcomed and supported.”
Senior women’s soccer player Kodee Williams became the entertainment when she volunteered to be one of 15 students hypnotized at the event.
“It was my first time being hypnotized so I had no idea what to expect and it was mind blowing looking back at the videos!” said Williams. “Overall, it was such an amazing event and a great opportunity for us to be involved and give back in a different way.”
More than 170 teams comprised of UW students participated in the event that raised more than $151,000.
“It is our mission to bring together our entire campus community with our Relay For Life event,” said DeVos. “Having the student-athletes attend and volunteer their time was truly a testament to the idea that Badgers are united to help finish the fight against cancer.”