Oct. 22, 2004
Special to CollegeSports.com
This month, volleyball teams aren't just using digs to save balls - they are also using the defensive move to save lives.
The women's volleyball teams at the Charlotte and the Southeast Missouri State are raising money for breast cancer research by digging balls on the court through a pair of programs during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Charlotte head coach Lisa Marston started "Dig for the Cure" last year as a last-minute community service project for the team. Within three weeks, the 49ers raised nearly $3,000 to benefit their local chapter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The money was raised through fan pledges per dig or flat-fee donations.
"It's not unusual to have these types of programs in volleyball, `Dig for something' or `Play for something,'" Marston said. "My mom is a breast cancer survivor and I saw that October was Breast Cancer Awareness month, so we decided to do [`Dig for the Cure']. The girls were really into it, and now, we're doing it again this year."
In addition, the 49ers recruited all 13 of their Conference USA opponents to designate one home match in October to collect funds with a goal to raise $42,000 total, or $3,000 per school.
Charlotte plays its "Dig for the Cure" match against Tulane University on Oct. 23.
"We set our goal higher this year, and how much we raise depends on how many digs we can come up with," Charlotte senior Holly Kreyling said. "It gives the digs more meaning, and I think last year in this match we had our best digging match of the year. I hope we can do that again this year and raise as much money as possible."
Charlotte freshman Cori Dayton said the squad has even put an emphasis on digging during practice for the match.
"We stress going for every ball, really making the extra effort to get to everything," she said, "because we're not just playing for ourselves in this match."
Unlike most programs, Marston said she prefers to designate one home match to raise money rather than use every October home match and that the same amount of money would be raised either way.
"I think if you do it for more than one match you lose the attention of the community," she said. "You will also probably make the same amount of money. People might just pledge 5 cents per dig rather than a dollar because they know it's for the whole month."
Southeast Missouri State head coach Cindy Gannon sponsors a similar campaign, "Dig for Life." Gannon started the program five years ago after she lost her mother to breast cancer. She said she was also inspired by a separate "Dig for the Cure" program started by Mary Ellen Murchison, former head coach at Cal-State Fullerton and a two-time survivor of breast cancer.
Since the program's inception, the Redhawks have raised nearly $20,000 from fan pledges for "Dig for Life." The donations go toward helping to educate women and help families affected by the disease in the Southeast Missouri community.
All digs accumulated by the squad in its seven home matches in October will count toward "Dig for Life."
"In the first fall, we just had us doing this. Our pledge forms were on paper and we were just handing them out," she said. "Now, we have formal brochures and four local high schools are also involved. It's really grown since then."
Although there is money pledged to each dig, players said there hasn't been any extra pressure to get more on the court.
"I think it's mostly an incentive to get more digs," Southeast Missouri State senior Kristen McElroy said. "It makes it more exciting that each dig we get is raising money for a cure."
This year's campaign also features a silent auction for a hope chest built by the Southeast Missouri State facility management department and made from 100-year old oak from the River campus. Bids are accepted at Southeast Missouri State home volleyball matches through Oct. 31.
The program also partnered with Saint Francis Medical Center, in Cape Girardeau, Mo., two years ago to raise money and provide mammograms to women in the area. Earlier this year, the campaign provided 80 free mammograms to local women in Southeast Missouri. Of those, there were about eight detections of breast cancer.
McElroy said the team is delighted that the "Dig for Life" campaign is making a difference in the community.
"Coach comes in and tells us these stories about the women who got free mammograms," McElroy said. "Some go in and they do have cancer, but they've caught it early enough and that's tremendous. We played a part of that and it really encourages us."
Charlotte 49er have recruited help for their cause.