WINNSBORO — A coach with a passion about fighting cancer visited Winnsboro on Thursday night to help kick off the 2013-14 Relay for Life in Fairfield County.
USC Head Basketball Coach Frank Martin said he had been involved with Coaches Versus Cancer during his career but that cancer really hit close to home when his mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer during the final year he coached at Kansas State.
He shared how a strong community embraced his family then and that a strong community welcomed his family to South Carolina, the place they now consider home. October two years ago he called the Jimmy V Foundation and Coaches Versus Cancer and they got his mother-in-law access to the best doctors near where she lived as they could.
After treatment, she now is cancer free, something for which he is thankful. Yet, Martin realizes not all families have the access to the resources that his did.
She now is regaining the strength, energy and passion for life that she had prior to treatment, the stuff that kept her going as she raised nine children, Martin said. His mother-in-law lives in the Northeast and his family is in South Florida.
“The fight against cancer helped bring us here (because we realized how important it was to move closer to family). This is a cause near and dear to our heart,” he said.
Martin attended the event with his wife, a friend of Toyna Green, the co-coordinator of this year’s Relay for Life in Fairfield County.
“It is hard for me to say no to people who need help for something good,” he said. “If it is about kids or fighting cancer, … it’s important for us at USC to help this community and help the people in it.”
Martin said his players will be involved with children’s hospitals and with Columbia elementary schools. They took flowers to patients at Surgery Center of Aiken Hospital this fall.
“We want our players to know that while winning is important, life is so much deeper than winning or losing games. Our goal (as a coaching staff) is to put our players in as many opportunities as possible to do everything they can to maintain that kind of appreciated for each day of life,” he said.
Part of that appreciation involves the appreciation of fans, so he has his players personally call season ticket holders to thank them for donating their time, money and attention to the USC program.
He wants his players to be excited to be at practice and work to get better each day.
“It’s about impacting kids. Ultimately the only thing that matters is that we have an impact and improve the quality of life for the next group of people to come after us,” he said.
Recently, he told his players they would realize they had become men on the day they woke up and understood the value of giving is worth a lot more than getting. For Martin, that was his first Christmas as a father.
Now he gives of his time to cancer related charities whenever he can. Martin’s passion off the court is to help people who lack the means to afford the medical care or have access to doctors to fight cancer.
“When we have times in life where we are most vulnerable, I believe that is when people see a sign and doors open up. You have to have faith to step through and that it will be OK,” he said.
Other community leaders including co-coordinator Arthur Lathan spoke about Relay for Life and the importance for people to volunteer and form teams to raise money in the fight against cancer.
Call Tonya Green 665-0251 or Aurthur Lathan 635-4373 for more information on how to get involved.