Roy Williams’ high-top sneakers and mustache-patterned tie were more than just a fashion statement at Monday night’s game. Williams, along with coaches nationwide, is raising awareness for the American Cancer Society by participating in their Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers week.
This initiative is a collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches, according to the American Cancer Society website. The Coaches vs. Cancer program has raised more than $115 million for the American Cancer Society since 1993, said Dan Thorpe, executive director for the American Cancer Society in Central and Eastern North Carolina.
The purpose of the sneakers is to remind people of the role that screening, physical activity and nutrition play in reducing the risk of cancer,according to the American Cancer Society website.
Coach Williams was sporting an off-white pair of Nike Air Jordan sneakers.
“He comes into the locker room and puts his toe down on the ground to show them off, and everyone's going absolutely nuts," said UNC basketball player Shea Rush. "It was an extremely rare shoe that he was wearing and seeing him wear something so pop culture was absolutely awesome."
Roy Williams is a large contributor to Coaches vs. Cancer and an important ally for the American Cancer Society, Thorpe said. Beyond Suits and Sneakers, Williams has done the tip-off breakfast to support UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center for years.
“He’s a tireless advocate for the American Cancer Society," Thorpe said. "I think just constantly shining a light on the work that we’re doing."
With their participation in Suits and Sneakers week, coaches from all over are encouraging people support the American Cancer Society.
“Ultimately it’s about raising awareness and inspiring hope,” Thorpe said.
The cancer death rates have fallen 27 percent over the last 25 years, which translates to 2.6 million deaths that were avoided, CNN reported.
“We believe (Coaches vs. Cancer) has been a really effective strategy that’s helped contribute to that significant decline in death rates,” Thorpe said.
The American Cancer Society is the largest non-governmental funder of cancer research. The funding raised during this weeklong event goes not only toward that research, but also to resources for cancer victims.
One way the funds are used is to offer patients free rides to treatment. In Central and Eastern North Carolina alone, the American Cancer Society provided more than 6,000 rides to treatment in 2018, Thorpe said.
“We also offer free lodging near hospitals, so that if folks are being treated at Lineberger, the American Cancer Society can help them get to those treatments and help them find a free place to stay nearby while they’re being treated,” Thorpe said.
Band members also participated in the event by sporting sneakers and matching laces, said Jeff Fuchs, director of University Bands.
“This is the first year they’ve extended it beyond just the coaches," Fuchs said. "We’re excited to be a part of it, to help them get the word out."
Coaches vs. Cancer partner Shoe Carnival has teamed up with Princess Lacey’s Legacy in promoting a pair of gold laces. Princess Lacey’s Legacy is a campaign in honor of a young basketball fan, Lacey Holsworth.
“When folks purchase those laces, 15 percent of proceeds will end up going to fight pediatric cancer,” Thorpe said.
The exclusive Coaches vs. Cancer tie was created by Vineyard Vines and is available for purchase. Thirty percent of the proceeds of each tie will go to the Coaches vs. Cancer program.
Money aside, the American Cancer Society is always looking for volunteers.
“People seeing this and hearing this can get involved by calling our 1-800 number on cancer.org, and we’d love for them to join us in the fight," Thorpe said. "Ultimately what we’re looking for is a world without cancer, and we believe that it will happen in our lifetime."