Some students may use Feb. 18 as a sleepy Saturday, but one Elon University alumna will be racing in honor of a lost role model.
Kay Yow, a renowned women’s basketball coach famous for her time at North Carolina State University, founded women’s sports at Elon and was the first women’s basketball and volleyball coach. Though she went on to greatness in her career, earning induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000, she died from breast cancer in 2009. The Kay Yow Cancer Fund was created in 2007 based on Yow’s ideas and desire to find an answer to women’s cancers.
This year, the foundation will have its first annual 4K “Celebration Run/Walk” on NC State’s campus. Megan Gravley, ’16, a former Elon student and volleyball player, will be attending.
Gravley has a personal connection to Yow, as she was raised locally in the Raleigh area and played basketball from age 6 to 14, when volleyball ultimately won over her schedule.
“I grew up idolizing Coach Yow,” Gravley said. “She was a great friend to my family and served as an inspiration to everyone around her, from her players to her staff, the fans to her opponents.”
Gravley will be accompanied by her family on the course beginning at 11 a.m. and has begun fundraising to benefit the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. She has a personal fundraising page through the cancer fund’s website with a goal of $500.
“It’s so special to contribute to an organization close to my heart, even if it doesn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things,” Gravley said.
Her connection to the organization goes beyond seeing Yow as an inspiration. Gravley’s mom and aunt have both been affected by cancer, too.
“I have a passion for fundraising for cancer-related organizations, as so many people around all of us are affected by the disease,” she said. “It blows my mind that I can pick someone out of a crowd and almost guarantee that a family member or friend has been affected by cancer. It’s sad, but it’s true.”
Gravley’s mother, Mary, was lucky to have her cancer caught early and treated aggressively, according to Gravley. To give back, her mom serves on the organization and planning committee as a volunteer for the event.
She and her family, Gravley said, are thankful for an organization so passionately devoted to helping women who aren’t as fortunate as Gravley’s family was. The organization at large raises money for research and assists those who do not have the funds for treatment, all the while unifying people for a common cause.
And many were unified over Yow’s famous phrase: “When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.” This phrase, Gravley said, was used to push the Kay Yow Cancer Fund into full force.
Yow’s powerful words and relentless spirit even during her long-standing battle with her health, touched hundreds on and off the court. Her fight began in 1987 and ended with her passing in 2009 after her third round of breast cancer. Because of Yow’s influence in the women’s basketball community, they began the initiative “Play4Kay,” for which many sports, groups and organizations have hosted fundraisers and played in pink in Yow’s honor.
Elon participates every year. Charlotte Smith, the current women’s basketball coach, said that it’s a great initiative in helping to cure a disease that affects so many.
“Kay Yow was a legend, and it’s an honor to be able to coach here at Elon University where she got her start,” Smith said. “The Kay Yow Cancer Fund does a phenomenal job of bringing awareness about cancer and fundraising for research. … We’re excited to be a part of the program and play the pink game. Every pink game — but really, every game — we try to represent her legacy.”