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Athletes raise money for research through Dribble for Victory Over Cancer

UNC sophomore forward Jalen Washington signed a fan's basketball before the annual Dribble for Victory fundraiser on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023.

Even though basketball season doesn't start until late October, the sound of dribbling could be heard all over UNC’s campus Sunday morning.

The UNC men’s and women’s basketball teams, along with many other UNC athletes, participated in the Dribble for Victory Over Cancer event. The event was held in collaboration with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation and the V Foundation for Cancer Research. This year’s event raised over $50,000 towards childhood cancer research.

Student-athletes and community members gathered in Carmichael Arena before the annual Dribble for Victory fundraiser on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023.

Sunday marked the second Dribble for Victory Over Cancer event held at UNC. The main event is a one-mile walk around campus, where UNC athletes dribble basketballs alongside young children and families affected by childhood cancer.

Bonnie Lattimore, director of strategic partnerships at the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, graduated from UNC in 2005. As an alumna, she said that it was special to bring this cause to her former campus.

Dribble for Victory Over Cancer started in 2008 as a collaboration with UCLA and St. John's University and has since expanded to other campuses, including UNC and Duke.

Before the dribble, North Carolina athletes were available for pictures, pick-up games and conversation at Carmichael Arena.

Players from both former and current UNC basketball teams participated, some of whom have personal connections to childhood cancer. Jessica Gaspar played on the women’s basketball team from 1995 to 1999. Her nephew, Nick Gaspar, passed away from pediatric cancer in May. He was designated an honorary captain for Sunday’s events.  

“This is extremely important to [my family] because it's close to us,” Gaspar said. “And we want to do what we can to fight this battle and raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer.” 

Alexandra Zelaya, a senior on the women’s basketball team, said she participates in this event for her sister, a survivor of pediatric cancer and current dental student at UNC.

“I walk for her and I also do my everyday life for her,” Zelaya said. “It's an honor for her to be here on campus with me.”

She also recognized the importance of holding this event on UNC’s campus two years in a row. 

“It was really special in the fact that it wasn't a one-time thing,” she said. “[The fact that] it was something that we're able to do every year is very fortunate.” 

After holding this event on UNC’s campus for the first time last year, registration nearly doubled this time around, Lattimore said.

“Everybody that came had a fantastic time last year, so they told all their friends to come,” Lattimore said. 

This message reached UNC athletes outside of basketball, too. Players from UNC wrestling, men’s and women’s lacrosse, cheerleading and gymnastics teams were all in attendance showing their support. 

UNC student-athletes played basketball with children before the annual Dribble for Victory fundraiser on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023.

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When Gaspar was on North Carolina’s basketball team, these kinds of events did not exist. Going forward, she finds it essential to shed light on situations involving pediatric cancer.

“Everybody has been touched by cancer in some way, a family member or friend, and I think it's just extremely important to get involved in and raise awareness,” Gaspar said. “So I'm glad that they have this, and we look forward — our family looks forward — to coming back every year.”


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