By MATTHEW WEITZEL
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Fran and Margaret McCaffery hosted the Hawkeye Basketball Tipoff Party benefiting the Adolescent & Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program at the UIHC on Wednesday. More than 250 supporters in the Iowa City community attended the event at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to help raise funds for AYA.
“It’s amazing how much this event has grown,” said Fran. “When we first started the event we didn’t know where it would go. We probably had 60-70 people and we just wanted to create awareness and raise some money to get it started. We raised $52,000 the first year and it has gone up significantly ever since. We can’t thank the sponsors, restaurants, and the incredibly generous supporters enough.”
The event, which was the sixth annual, raised $635,000 the first five years. The goal this year is to raise around $200,000. Fran’s wife Margaret says that money raised this year will focus on the psychosocial and emotional care of these patients because that is unique to this age range.
“There is so many different personal aspects that they are going through at this point in their life like where am I at in my life, fertility, and marriage that it’s important to support them through that,” Margaret said.
People in that age range of 13-31 respond differently to treatment and cancers react differently in their bodies. The McCafferys have been a champion for raising awareness for AYA.
“Iowa City is one of the few places in the Midwest that actually is doing clinical trials to figure why and where we go from here so that people in that age range are not dying and they have more birthdays,” said Fran. “We’re fortunate to live in a community where we have that kind of comprehensive cancer center in the UIHC. The publicity and how it has grown and our partnership with UIHC has been tremendous.”
Former Indiana and Marquette head coach Tom Crean was invited to the event to help speak about what it means to support these cause and his relationship with the McCafferys. Fran told those in attendance last night about how instrumental Crean’s support was when Patrick McCaffery was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2014.
“Tom called 30 minutes after we found out that Patrick had cancer and we prayed over the phone together,” said Fran. “That tells you the kind of person he is.”
“You never want to see your friends face adversity and go through challenges by themselves,” Crean said. “You learn what friendship is all about along the way. In a way that is what happened with Fran and I.”
Crean said that there was no way that he wanted to miss this event after the McCafferys invited him over the summer.
“We are all in this together,” Crean said. “It’s an honor to be a part of this event knowing what you are trying to accomplish, not only for the people who you know, but for people you will probably never meet.
“I have great respect for this university and it’s an honor to be a friend of the McCafferys. When I look at what Fran is building and I look at the McCafferys and what he is building with his family, they are problem solvers. The kids who leave Iowa are going to know how to solve problems and they are going to know how to deal with things that come up in this life.”