SAAC raises $1,300 for American Cancer Society


Senior athletes pose on the stage of Foellinger Auditorium during the University of Illinois Student Athlete Advisory Committee Fashion Show and Silent Auction on Tuesday, April 21, 2009. The event raised money for the American Cancer Society in honor of former Illinois football player Chris Norwell.

By Jacob Hurwith

Student-athletes found themselves in an unfamiliar setting Tuesday night as they strutted their stuff down the runway at Foellinger Auditorium to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

The event, organized by the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, also featured an auction with numerous items including signed apparel by head football coach Ron Zook and other sports figures.

Val Dini, freshman in Business, won a basketball autographed by women’s basketball head coach Jolette Law.

“I thought the event went great,” Dini said. “I hope they do something like this every year, even if it’s not for someone, but for a good cause.”

Kathy Kaler, athlete academic advisor at the University said she is thrilled with how the event went. She added that SAAC raised around $1,300 from the fashion show and the auction.

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    Tyler Mizoguchi, freshman on the men’s gymnastics squad, said walking down the runway wasn’t so different than one of his competitions.

    “It’s just like one of our matches, all the eyes are on you,” Mizoguchi said. “This is a great opportunity to have fun and help raise money for cancer.”

    The event was originally planned to help Chris Norwell. Norwell, a former Illini football player, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in October 2008. Since he is no longer in need of financial aid, SAAC decided to donate the money in Norwell’s name.

    To begin the event, members of SAAC read a letter written by Norwell thanking the committee for putting on the affair.

    “Just like everyone else, I didn’t think I’d ever have to deal with cancer,” Norwell said. “An event like this makes it possible for me to fight cancer.”

    Throughout the night, SAAC had presentations honoring Norwell and past Illini who have fought cancer. Fittingly, the video that honored Norwell was played to the hit song “How to Save a Life” by The Fray.

    Rob Pykosz, senior on the men’s track and field team and co-chair of SAAC, said the committee was always looking for a good opportunity to put on an event like this, and this was the just the right time.

    “There were a lot of nerves coming in, but the models seemed calmed,” Pykosz said. “Each model got to pick out their outfit based on their personalities.”

    Kaler said she hopes the event will turn into an annual affair.

    “This was the first time the student-athletes were able to put together a fundraiser,” Kaler said. “After tonight we will all meet and see if this is the right type of event or if we should go in another direction.”