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Contacts:
Department of Athletics, 657-2369
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269

February 16, 2010

Senior service gets personal

Student-athlete spearheads fundraising effort for friend’s mom who has breast cancer

If you go:
Third annual “Think Pink” game to raise awareness for breast cancer issues is Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. There is free admission for this game.

MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — As a basketball player, she’s had knee surgery, had chunks of her two front teeth knocked out and had to have a broken nose fixed.

Rachel Hanson and SusanBut Rachel Hansen says that’s nothing compared to the pain and anguish that cancer patients go through on a regular basis. That’s why the Montana State University Billings senior was committed to making a difference for a Billings woman who is dealing with breast cancer.

Hansen, a 22-year-old biology major/chemistry minor from Lolo, is the lone senior on this year’s Yellowjacket women’s basketball team. When asked by Coach Kevin Woodin to develop a senior service project, she instantly thought of Susan Costello.

Through classes at MSU Billings, Hansen became good friends with Costello’s daughter, Shae. The basketball player developed a strong bond with the family and grew to truly appreciate the daily struggles and of a cancer patient.

“She inspires me. When coach put a bug in my ear about a senior project, I thought of Susan,” Hansen said. “And I wanted to do more than just a card and flowers.” 

What she developed was a fund-raising project that put the shooting skills of herself and her teammates to work. Hansen solicited donations from individuals and businesses to pledge set amounts for a “3s for Susan” effort to help defray medical costs for the family. Each time a Yellowjacket sank a three-point shot during the first six home games, money would go to the cause.

By the time the initiative was over, Hansen and her teammates had raised nearly $5,000 for Costello and her family.

She will present the fruits of the team’s three-point labors to Costello and her family during halftime of this week’s “Think Pink” basketball game.  The game, in which the Yellowjacket women’s team trade their standard home uniforms for pink ones, is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Alterowitz Gymnasium.  The Jackets are in partnership with St. Vincent Healthcare’s Eva Project, teaming up for breast cancer awareness.

In order to promote better awareness of cancer issues, everyone is admitted free for this game.

The game is MSU Billings’ third “Think Pink” event, part of a global effort through the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) to help raise breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses and in communities across the nation.

Think Pink Womens Basketball 005.jpgThe event features information on breast cancer detection, research, and local support groups. Local breast cancer survivors such as Costello will be honored at halftime.

As a physical manifestation of their support, the Yellowjacket players and coaching staff will wear pink during the game. From pink shoelaces to pink fingernail polish to pink uniforms, the women’s basketball team will do its part to raise awareness about breast cancer issues.

Woodin said he’s proud of Hansen for developing the idea and following through with it. But, he notes, he’s not surprised.

Community service and outreach are an integral part of his basketball program, he said. Each semester the team gets involved in outreach to the community, whether it is reading with elementary students, paying a visit to the pediatrics wards at the hospitals or doing camps.

“I’m a teacher/coach and this is important,” Woodin said, who is now in his sixth season as head women’s coach. “The team has a GPA of close to 3.5 and they understand that to be successful in life after basketball, we giving as well as receiving.”

Through the “Think Pink” initiatives with St. Vincent Healthcare, the team has gotten to know local breast cancer survivors and developed a deep appreciation of their lives and struggles, Woodin said. Last week the team attended a survivor’s meeting where women told their stories about battling cancer, support from family and friends.

“It’s important for our players to hear those stories,” he said. “It puts the game in perspective and makes us feel good about the doing the game to raise awareness.”

For Hansen, who plays with a brace because of an old knee injury and suffered a broken nose and chipped teeth during a December practice, the outreach project has had a lifelong effect.

“It’s never something that I would have thought about doing when I came to college,” said Hansen, who is planning to pursue studies in physical therapy after she graduates in May. “It’s been humbling for me. When I think I’m having a bad day, I think of what Susan has gone through.”

For more information on “Think Pink Night” contact MSU Billings Athletics at 657-2369 or St. Vincent Healthcare at 238-6223.

FIRST PHOTO ABOVE: Rachel Hansen, a senior MSU Billings women’s basketball player from Lolo, spearheaded a project to raise about $5,000 for Susan Costello in her fight against cancer. She and at Costello are at right and Hansen is wearing the uniform for the “Think Pink” game this Wednesday.

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