UWindsor Athletics Take Aim at Breast Cancer with the Shoot for the Cure Initiative
by: Justin Peters
Shoot for the Cure is a favourite cause of the University of Windsor’s varsity teams and their efforts have banked $1,000 already with hopes of a substantial donation for 2021.
Elisa Mitton, the Sports Information Coordinator for the University of Windsor, says the initiative has gained traction and become a more common cause based on the growing understanding that this type of cancer doesn’t impact women alone.
“We have grown the event to include not only our women’s basketball team but seven of our varsity teams,” Mitton said. “Breast cancer doesn’t only affect women who have been diagnosed, and to see our teams come together to support this important cause really makes me feel like we are making a difference.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the usual in-person events that have support this cause and have been replaced with virtual campaigning for donations.
“It certainly was different than in past years, but I am happy to say that we were able to raise over $1,000 virtually to help fight the cause,” Mitton said.
Yasmeen Smith, a third-year guard on the Lancers women’s basketball team, says it’s important for athletes to be active and make a positive change in ways that extend be.
“It’s important to bring more awareness to people who might forget about it [breast cancer] or brush it off,” Smith said. “Using our platform for something bigger than athletics is great, it helps create leaders in our community.”
For Smith, this cause has a particular meaning and doing what she can to help find a cure is special.
“It means a lot to me because I lost somebody to breast cancer, so just the fact that my teammates and the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) participates in something like this is amazing.”
Forty-eight schools participate in Shoot for the Cure annually and the program has operated for the last 14 years. The initiative was first conceptualized by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) after coaches throughout the nation realized it was advantageous to work cooperatively with each other, the Canadian Cancer Society, and local charities, to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research.
Jeff Speedy, the Assistant Athletic Director and Head Coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) has been involved with the initiative since its inception in 2007. Speedy, a basketball coach for 30 years, is considered the project manager for the initiative.
“We want to get our student-athletes involved, engaged, and giving back to the community, while understanding life is so much bigger than sports,” Speedy said. “Even a school that raises $100 but touches 200 people by them clicking a link, reading a story, and thinking about the cause is making a positive impact in a different way.”
Canadian institutions involved with the initiative operate independently and receive support from Speedy and other members of the basketball community. With a “hands-off” approach from project leaders, schools develop unique events to raise funds. As a result, the initiative has witnessed considerable growth throughout the 2021 programming.
“It turned out to be one of our best years ever, which blows me away,” Speedy said. “We set a goal to raise $44,000 and have raised $123,000 so far this year, it totally blew us out of the water.”
Speedy related the success of this year to increased online engagement throughout social media platforms.
“I can really only attribute our success to everybody having more time to contribute,” Speedy said. “Online contributions and unique programming have helped to increase engagement in programming and initiatives.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many initiatives negatively. Yet, Shoot for the Cure has experienced its most successful year and with total donations exceeding $1.5 million to date, there is hope upon the horizon for breast cancer research.