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Team McCaffery: A touching story of cancer and survival

[ 0 ] October 29, 2013 |
Fran and Margaret McCaffery

Fran and Margaret McCaffery

IOWA CITY, Ia. –Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery can give you an in-depth scouting report on every one of his players.

Same for the recruits he’s chasing. Oh, and 7th grader Wil Roling of Cascade.

“He’s had 39 spinal taps, 54 chemotherapy shots in both his legs,” McCaffery said Tuesday.

Roling, diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March of 2011, joined the Iowa team on their road trip to Indiana last season. And when University Hospitals held a going-away party for Wil in late June, to celebrate the end of his chemo treatments, McCaffery was there.

“That was an amazing thing, to see the smiles on the faces of his family,” McCaffery said.

Tuesday night, when McCaffery and his wife, Margaret, hosted their second annual Coaches vs. Cancer event at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Wil was back at the McCaffery home spending time with the McCaffery’s  two oldest sons, Connor and Patrick.

“If you could have seen the smile on Wil’s face last year when he was hanging out with our guys at Indiana” Margaret said. “He came to a game the following week with his friends. That makes everything worthwhile. Anything you can do to help ease any child’s suffering is totally worth it.”

Tuesday, the McCafferys were hoping to raise more than the $52,000 last year’s event brought in. All proceeds from the event go to Hope Lodge and to researchers at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“If you ask me, it’s more important that we are able to do something like this than the wins and losses and all that kind of stuff,” Margaret said.

It seems like everyone is touched by cancer. Fran McCaffery lost both his parents to colon cancer. His father died 15 years ago this week, at 69 years of age. His mother, Shirley, passed away in 2007 at the age of 75.

Tuesday’s event was a fundraiser. But it was also an education session.

“We’re educating people to make sure you get a colonoscopy,” Fran said. “Because colon cancer shouldn’t be a death sentence, and it is for so many people. It was for my parents.”

The McCafferys have hosted fundraisers for cancer since he was the coach at North Carolina-Greensboro. There, after he spoke at an event and told the story of his dad’s passing from colon cancer, a doctor from Wake Forest came up to him.

“He said to me, “I know what you’re doing tomorrow,’ ” McCaffery said. “You’re having a colonscopy.”

McCaffery was 40 years old at the time.

The McCafferys have brought their fundraising talents to Iowa City now. Tuesday’s  crowd included McCaffery’s coaching staff and former Iowa players like Luke Recker, Duez Henderson, Mike Gatens, Jess Settles, Ryan Luehrsmann and Val Barnes. Former NFL placekicker and Iowa City resident Nate Kaeding was also there.

Among the items up for bid was a specially designed black-and-gold golf cart donated by Harris Golf Cars of Peosta. Money will help try to find a cure and bring joy to young and old alike afflicted with cancer.

And it’s stories of youngsters like Wil Roling that inspire Team McCaffery to use their status to help fight cancer.

“Wil is doing really well,”  McCaffery said. “ We just want him to have more birthdays.”

This golf cart was auctioned off Tuesday

This golf cart was auctioned off Tuesday

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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