Illini volleyball battles breast cancer in ‘Workout a Cure’

When the Illinois volleyball team takes the floor Sunday afternoon, they’ll be battling more than Ohio State.

Sunday is the “Workout a Cure,” event for the Illini and although they will face the Buckeyes at Huff Hall, the team is trying to raise money to beat something bigger than an opposing volleyball team, breast cancer.

“I think it’s a great event,” sophomore outside hitter Jocelynn Birks said. “I lost my grandma to cancer so it’s really special to be able to play for those who are battling cancer. I think it’s a really awesome thing that we do.”

This year the Illini are donating to a local charity, the Mills Breast Cancer Institute in Urbana, Ill. For the event the Illini Networkers, Illinois volleyball’s support group, held a silent auction Sept. 27-28 where special-edition pink jerseys were auctioned off. Three additional jerseys were put up for sale on Ebay.

The auction winners were allowed to have a name of their choice put on the back of the jersey they won, and after the silent auction, Ebay auction and additional donations were counted, $ 4,765.97 (before jersey costs) was raised for the Mills Institute.

Illinois has already raised more money this year than last, raising $ 4,253.50 (before expenses) last year, which is something Hambly is pleased with. 

“It keeps growing and we keep raising more money,” head coach Kevin Hambly said. “It has become something the girls get excited about. It has become something the community gets behind and the fact that we’re donating to a local charity this year, the Mills Breast Cancer Foundation, I think even means more.” 

The Illini have held a breast cancer awareness event each of the past five years, something that Hambly said started because of a personal battle with breast cancer of someone close to the team.

“A few years ago, my first year actually which I think was the first year that we did it, Kathy Hug was our event manager and she was dealing with breast cancer,” Hambly said. “She’s awesome, she’s been a great supporter of ours not just working, but in spirit and all that. We love her. The fact that she was going through all that we kinda decided, ‘hey let’s do this for her.’ The first year we did the auction we actually got her a jersey.” 

Apart from the match, other athletics-themed festivities will also be happening on Sunday, leading to the name of the event, “Workout a Cure.” Fans eighth grade and younger are invited to a pre-match sports clinic at the Armory, something that junior outside hitter Morganne Criswell thought was great. 

“It sounds like a really cool event and to get the younger kids involved in it is something really awesome that we’re doing,” Criswell said.

Fans are encouraged to wear pink on Sunday in support of those who have battled or are battling breast cancer.

Whether it be personal relationships or statistical analysis, “Workout a cure match,” and the fundraising done for it have become extremely significant for Illinois.

“For me the thing that’s important about it is that if you go in our room the likelihood is that two of our girls will end up with breast cancer, that’s what the averages would say,” Hambly said. “When you start to talk about those statistics it really hits home with the girls so I think it’s one of the more meaningful things that we do. For me I’m raising two little girls and I have a wife and I’m around girls all the time. If you look at the kids that I’ve coached you know how many does that mean will end up with breast cancer and how many are close to that point now or could potentially have it already? The fact that it hits that close to home means a lot to everybody.”