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Think Pink

credit: ClydeClick;
credit: ClydeClick;

On a typical Friday night, Turner Gym is usually painted in shades of green with Wildcat fans filing into the bleachers to support the basketball teams. However, on Jan. 19, not a speck of green could be found: shades of pink coated the entire gym. This night marked Westminster’s 3rd annual Play4Kay night, an event started by senior Leah Black-Holmes. Black-Holmes recently watched her mother, Kelly Black-Holmes battle cancer and, inspired by her mother’s resilience, wanted to make an impact. After researching different organizations and ways to help women affected by cancer, she discovered Play4Kay.

Play4Kay is a charity that raises money to fight all cancers affecting women in the memory of Coach Kay Yow. Coach Yow transformed women’s basketball and left an indelible mark on countless players, coaches, and fans. Yow coached at North Carolina State for 32 years, led the Wolfpack to 20 out of 27 NCAA tournaments, was selected for the coaching staff of the US Olympic team, and entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. After receiving her cancer diagnosis, Yow continued to follow her passion for basketball, coaching throughout her battle with cancer and founding the Kay Yow Cancer Fund to unite people and support any woman affected by cancer. The fund describes its mission as “uniting players, coaches, officials and fans to do something for the greater good that far exceeds wins and losses in competition.” The Play4Kay initiative serves as the most profitable and largest fundraiser for the charity. 

While celebrated across the country, Play4Kay games primarily occur at colleges, but Black-Holmes wanted to bring this event to the high school level. After months of planning, Black-Holmes launched the first Westminster Play4Kay event in January of 2022. Immediately, everyone recognized the importance of this event and knew it needed to become a part of every basketball season. The next year, Black-Holmes raised over $25,000 at the event, making Westminster the highest-earning high school in the nation. Play4Kay honored Black-Holmes at a formal ceremony in Dallas, Texas, where she also attended the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four. 

While this year marks Black-Holmes final time running the event, she said, “I hope that someone else in the program will be able to continue it after I graduate and that it can stay a Westminster tradition and continue to unite the community around a great cause.”

This year, the event featured a silent auction with many eye-catching prizes, such as a signed Trae Young jersey, NASCAR tickets, and much more. For younger Wildcat fans, cheerleaders offered a face-painting station, meaning countless lower-schoolers rocked a paw print on their cheeks for the entire night. When it came time for the basketball to tip off, fans had filled every inch of the gymnasium. 

As senior Hayes Carroll later described it, “the Howell Center was rockin!” The boys basketball team played one of its most exciting games of the year and availed with an underdog victory over Holy Innocents’ led by juniors Kyle Coleman and Michael Buhay, with sophomore Nico Searl sealing the deal with some clutch free throws. 

While the girls team did not come out with a win, the intense positivity that defined the entire night carried over, and the fans decked out in pink stayed late into the night to support the team. The girls’ game also featured special pink jerseys donned by both teams to support the fundraiser. Even more exciting, between the boys’ and girls’ games, Coach Pullen came on the loudspeaker and announced that an anonymous donor would match every donation from the night. Already, the event had raised thousands of dollars, but now the idea of beating last year’s donations number seemed almost certain.

In the end, Westminster’s Play4Kay night raised over $28,000 for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Outside of the staggering amount of money raised for cancer research, powerful, lifelong memories were made. Prior to tipoff of the girls game, a group of cancer survivors and thrivers had the chance to walk across the court and have their accomplishments celebrated. The gym was filled with smiles and tears, and as the stands erupted with applause for the women, they stood together in an embrace, a picture of strength, determination, and unity. Black-Holmes said that, in this moment, the impact of the event truly sank in. The positive energy in the air felt infectious; the basketball, activities, and honoring of cancer thrivers created an unforgettable night that displayed the passion of the Westminster community. 


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