MW BASKETBALL: MN West basketball teams raise money, awareness for leukemiaWORTHINGTON — For quite some time, Minnesota West men’s basketball coach Justin Heckenlaible wanted to find a way to help out with the fight against cancer.
WORTHINGTON — For quite some time, Minnesota West men’s basketball coach Justin Heckenlaible wanted to find a way to help out with the fight against cancer.
Last year, that desire to help grew even more because cancer hit close to home when his wife, Heidi, was diagnosed with leukemia.
So during the 2011-12 men’s and women’s basketball seasons, Heckenlaible — along with women’s coach Mike Fury — started a fundraiser to promote awareness and raise money for the American Cancer Society.
To incorporate the fundraiser with the basketball season, the coaches decided to name the effort “Treys for Jays.”
“Mike Fury and I had talked about getting something like this started for some time,” Heckenlaible said. “And when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia last year, it became something I definitely wanted to do.
“Our goal was simply to raise awareness and money for the cause. I think it worked out really well.”
“Treys for Jays” raised $5,193 that will be donated to the American Cancer Society, where it will be split up between Coaches vs. Cancer and the Nobles County Relay for Life.
The Bluejays and Lady Jays raised money by selling shirts that read “Hoops for the Cure” as well as orange bracelets that displayed a similar message. Orange was the chosen color because that is the hue for leukemia awareness.
Along with the merchandise, the basketball teams did a promotion where individuals, families or businesses donated money for every 3-pointer one of the teams made during a game at home this year.
“That part was fun for the teams, because not only were the 3-pointers helping their efforts to win the game, but it was helping to raise money for the cause too,” Heckenlaible said. “We had sort of a running total each week so they could see what they were doing. It was a good way to incorporate their efforts on and off the court. It was a win-win situation.”
The Bluejays and Lady Jays will also sell the t-shirts and bracelets at the Nobles County Relay for Life on June 22. The event will be a nice conclusion to Minnesota West’s efforts, as Heidi Heckenlaible is the chairperson of this year’s relay — the same woman who was cause to set the plan in motion last year.
To get the fundraiser started, the teams sent out letters and made phone calls to various people and businesses that were considered as valuable to the 3-point donations. From there, Fury said the plan “took off.”
Families, individuals and businesses began to hear about “Treys for Jays” from others and were contacting the coaches with further information.
Heckenlaible and Fury couldn’t have been more pleased.
“I don’t know of any other programs or teams that do this sort of thing and get this involved with a cause,” Fury said. “It’s a really neat fundraiser and I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish. It’s just incredible.”
With roughly 28-30 sponsers, it is safe to say that there was plenty of local support behind “Treys for Jays.”
Although official plans to continue the fundraiser for next year haven’t been made, Heckenlaible and Fury would love to see it continue. Heckenlaible encourages anyone with ideas for new ways to raise money and awareness to contact one of the coaches.
“It was a big success and I think it’s definitely something we’d like to continue,” Heckenlaible said. “We are so appreciative of all the support we received. We were doing positive things to help knock out leukemia. That’s our goal is to fight leukemia and hopefully the money we raised pushes us one step closer to doing that.”
Daily Globe Sports Reporter Jocelyn Syrstad can be reached at 376-7335.