May 21, 2012
Of all the things the Griz soccer team gave western Montana last fall in its run to the Big Sky Conference tournament title and first NCAA tournament since 2000 -- pride, belief, renewed passion in the program -- none was as important as what the team recently gave a resident of Missoula.
Through the team's Pink Game efforts last fall, the Grizzlies were able to gift $1,000 to Team Up Montana this spring. More specifically they benefited the Cancer Compassion Fund, which distributes monies throughout western Montana to help those in financial need in their fight against cancer.
"The Griz soccer team was able to raise $1,000, and we were honored to be the recipient," Michael Bullard, executive director of the St. Patrick Hospital Foundation, said. "But the team didn't just raise money. They gave someone hope, dignity and most important the will to keep fighting.
"The team sets a shining example of what a small group of dedicated people can accomplish. I am extremely proud of them."
In conjunction with Montana's Big Sky Conference game against Northern Arizona last October, the team accepted donations for Team Up Montana and sold team-designed Kick For A Cure T-shirts. The program later sold -- for the same cause -- the special pink uniforms the players had worn against the Lumberjacks.
The money the team raised through its efforts was later used to directly assist a Missoula resident through her cancer treatments, "treatments she might not have had otherwise," Bullard added.
"As a program we want to make sure we're giving back to a community that does so much to support us," UM coach Mark Plakorus said. "I also thought it was important that the student-athletes on our team understand the impact they can have on other people's lives just because they are Griz athletes.
"They can bring attention to a cause that other people might not be able to just because of their status. There is a big responsibility that comes with that."
Plakorus and the members of the team will never know who they helped. Maybe she was already a Griz soccer fan. Maybe she would be for life if she found out where the funds came from. But in the end, it isn't important and it wasn't the reason for the Pink Game.
What was important was that she was in need ... and that she was someone one of the players might one day pass by in a local grocery store.
"That was something we really liked," Plakorus said about the chance to aid someone close to home. "There are a number of different organizations out there -- all doing great things -- but we know Team Up Montana is about people in Montana.
"We knew the money would go to someone in the community, and that's what we wanted. We were pretty pleased with what we were able to do."
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