By BRIAN GRAVES
University of Tennessee Athletic Director Emeritus Joan Cronan used life lessons learned from her good friend, former Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt, as she encouraged of group beast cancer survivors to …
University of Tennessee Athletic Director Emeritus Joan Cronan used life lessons learned from her good friend, former Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt, as she encouraged a group of breast cancer survivors to emulate the Hall of Fame coach’s fight against Alzheimer’s in their battle against the disease they had come together to defeat.
The event was the 11th annual Volley For A Cure luncheon at Lee University, which is given each year in support of the MaryEllen Locher Foundation.
Locher was a longtime Chattanooga TV news anchor who was taken by the disease 12 years ago. Her son, Alex, was in attendance at the DeVos Recreation Center Thursday afternoon.
It was Locher’s concern for her then young son that led to the establishment of the yearly scholarships to students who are the children of cancer survivors or who have lost a parent to the disease.
Cindy Perry spoke for the foundation, adding her gratitude for the partnership with Lee University.
“This year, we have 41 winners at 24 area schols.,” Perry said.
“Over the past 16 years, the foundation has given out 460 scholarships totaling more than $750,000,” she said.
Taylor said the afternoon was dedicated to the memory of Sharon Ramsey, who died in September after she had, as her obituary noted, “won the ultimate battle over cancer.”
Taylor herself is an eight-year breast cancer survivor, and remembered Ramsey, noting it was “not right to go on without saying we miss Sharon.”
“She never missed one of these luncheons, and we are saddened by her passing,” Taylor said.
A special award was given to Linda White, of SouthEast Bank in Ooltewah.
Taylor said White “so many of our sponsors are here because of her generosity of spirit.”
Kennedy Brown, a member of the Voices of Lee, sang a song with a hope-filled message as an introduction to the guest speaker.
“What I like about today is I am talking to women who want to make a difference,” Cronan said. “I am talking to women who are heroes — who have survived breast cancer and you are our heroes.”
Cronan said she believes in making a difference and was excited by the number of scholarships being provided.
She noted there is “so much progress being made” in defeating the disease.
“But, you had other people,” Cronan said. “You surrounded yourself with friends, doctors and your faith. All of that made a difference.”
“What a difference Pat Summitt made, and I want to tell you some of the things Pat Summitt taught me along the way,” she said.
“None of us thought she would be battling that disease, just like some of you when they said you have cancer,” Cronan said.
Cronan said Summitt never wanted to sugarcoat what she was facing, insisting the announcement of her disease be in full.
“Pat wanted it to be known she was going to make a difference,” Cronan said. “Pat said, “I thought I was going to be remembered for winning basketball games, but I hope I am remembered for making a difference in this disease.”
“During that next 3 1/2 years, she did everything she possibly could to battle that disease,” Cronan said the coach’s Alzheimer’s fight .
Cronan said Summitt also taught her discipline, courage, to stay focused, to plan ahead, surround one’s self with great people, and — especially — stay humble.
“It’s what makes people special when it’s not about me, it’s about you,” she said. “Some of you who have battled and faced cancer, I know most of the time you worried about your family and friends and how they were going to respond. That makes it special, and makes you special.”
The event continues today at Paul Dana Walker Arena when a silent auction begins at 4:30 p.m.
A “pink party” with crazy hair, face painting, a photo booth, cotton candy and more fires up for fun at 5:30 p.m.
At 6:45 p.m., fans are asked to “pack the stands in pink” as they get ready for the Lady Flames volleyball squad to face off against the University of West Georgia, beginning at 7 p.m. The annual scholarship will be presented during the game.
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