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NMMI cadets promote cancer awareness

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Members of the Lady Colt volleyball team demonstrate the Memorial Ribbon Board and how it will start to look after being decorated by the various colors of string used to represent different types of cancer. (NMMI Sports Press Photo)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and at stadiums and gyms across the country, athletes and their fans rally for the cause. But cadets at the New Mexico Military Institute will be going one step further.

“A couple of us got together and said we wanted to do more than just wear pink or wear T-shirts that say ‘Dig Pink.’ We wanted to do something that actually helped the cause,” said Colt football coach Randy Montoya. “It’s a cause that is dear to my heart (he lost his mother to ovarian cancer), and a lot of other people here at NMMI, with loved ones who had battled against cancer. So we’re recognizing all cancers, not just breast cancer.”

From Oct. 5-14, the NMMI cadets, athletes, faculty and staff will be raising awareness as well as money for cancer cures across the board with the “Cadets for a Cure” campaign.

“We’re going to try to do what we can as far as getting the word out and trying to help our local cancer fund,” Montoya said.

All the money raised will go to the Chaves County Cancer Fund.

Foxtrot’s First Sergeant Gavin Maloney – also the senior quarterback for the Colt football team – had this to say about the fundraising part of the campaign: “My family has been through several battles with cancer – my grandma and my great aunt. The money that we raise, it all goes towards helping to find a cure. That’s why we’re doing this.”

And while cancer is serious business, a lot of the activities planned during NMMI’s Cancer Awareness Week will be fun. Each event will include an informational booth plus extras specific to that sport.

The week begins today, with JV and varsity games between the Lady Colts and local rival Gateway Christian. The JV match will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Cahoon Armory gym, with the varsity match after, around 6:30 p.m.. Admission to the matches will be free, but several fans who donate to the cause will get a chance to win a gift card or other prizes by serving a ball to a specific spot on the court.

On Friday, at 7 p.m., the Colt football team will host Ruidoso in both teams’ District 4-4A opener. Activities include a half-time balloon sendoff, where, for 50 cents each, people can buy a balloon in a color representing a specific cancer — there are 30 different colors — then launch it skyward during a mass ascension; a chance to win a gift card by making a 25-yard field goal; and before and after the game, NMMI faculty and staff will be manning both a dunk tank and pie-throwing booth. Participants will get three balls for $1 at the dunk tank, and a pie tin filled with whipped cream for $2.

The Lady Bronco volleyball team will have their night Wednesday vs. Clarendon College. This WJCAC conference match is slated to begin at 7 p.m. and will again give fans a chance to win a gift card by showcasing their serving skills.

Cancer Awareness Week activities will conclude with the Bronco football game vs. conference foe Blinn College on Saturday, Oct. 14. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. with similar activities – minus the balloon sendoff – as at the Colt football game.

Also, at every event, a giant ribbon will be displayed where loved ones can honor someone who’s fought cancer by tying a colored string around a series of pegs or posting a picture.

Cadets will also be selling “Cure” bracelets in black and red for $1 each, and T-shirts in black or tan for $10 each. And, on Oct. 6, 9 and 13, cadets on campus will look a little different as they’ll be encouraged to wear their “Cadets for a Cure” T-shirts.

“We’re just excited about this,” Montoya said. “It’s the first year we tried doing something like this in the fall. The Corps will do the cancer march in the spring, but we wanted an event that would link up with the overall theme in October.”

The idea germinated last spring, and after getting approval from athletic director Jose Barron, was spearheaded by numerous cadets working closely with Athletic Department staff such as Montoya, Colt volleyball coach Stephanie Schooley, Katie Dollahon (who servers as assistant coach for several high school sports), assistant AD and Colt basketball coach Sean Schooley, and Bronco volleyball head coach Shelby Forchtner.

Both Montoya and Barron are hoping this will become an annual event.

“We just wanted to make this something we could do to bring more awareness, because obviously more people are affected by cancer each and every year. The more word we can get out, the more people we can support and that’s what it’s all about,” said Montoya.

Barron applauded both the efforts of the cadets and his athletic staff, and praised the ‘activeness’ of this year’s campaign.

“In previous seasons our teams have been passive participants, wearing pink items to support cancer awareness,” said Barron. “This campaign, in contrast, provides a call to action, with several activities planned to promote cancer awareness and aid in fundraising for a great local cause.”

NMMI’s second highest-ranking cadet, Regimental Executive Officer Katianne Flury, summed up the ‘Cadets For A Cure’ campaign perfectly: “As cadets we are from all over the world but we are all still affected by cancer in some way. It’s great that even though we come from different continents, we can still come together to support cancer victims and their families.”

The NMMI Corps of Cadets encourages everyone in the community to attend one or more of the planned athletic events, join in on the activities, and help honor those who have fought against cancer.