MALTA – When Kishwaukee College volleyball coach Stephanie Gooden met Black Hawk College’s Mary Davis in early September, Gooden immediately knew there was something different about her coaching counterpart.
Kishwaukee had traveled to the Quad Cities for an Arrowhead Conference volleyball match, but Gooden’s focus soon shifted to something much more important.
“You could tell something was going on,” Gooden said. “She started telling me her story and immediately my heart sank into my feet.”
Davis, who is in her 21st season as the volleyball coach at Black Hawk, was recently re-diagnosed with breast cancer. She had been cancer-free for almost eight years before doctors told her the cancer had relapsed in April. It was now in Stage 4. Davis has been going through chemotherapy once a week while continuing to coach at Black Hawk.
Gooden set out to create a fundraiser, quickly putting together the “Competition for a Cure” on Wednesday night during the Black Hawk-Kishwaukee volleyball match. The fundraiser coincided with the official opening of the Kougars’ newly renovated gym.
“It’s really special to give back money to someone who put so much into the sport of volleyball,” said Mackenzie Johnson, a Kishwaukee sophomore and DeKalb High School graduate. “To be able to host it at home means a lot to everyone.”
Gooden hoped Wednesday’s efforts would raise up to $1,000 to go toward Davis’ medical bills.
The Kougars organized a 50-50 raffle, sold commemorative pink T-shirts and ran a silent auction during the match. Kishwaukee also wore pink uniforms in place of its traditional green-and-gold color scheme.
Kishwaukee defeated Black Hawk in four sets and Gooden ended the event by getting her hair cut in the center of the new floor. She donated the hair to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
“To put a face to a cause makes you want to be more involved, makes you understand where that money goes,” Gooden said. “To still be coaching her team, I don’t understand how she does it. It’s a pretty powerful thing.”
Davis and Gooden talked after the match and the Black Hawk coach still couldn’t believe the night’s events were put on by a coach she met less than a month ago.
“I’m so humbled and touched by people I don’t even know really well,” Davis said. “All the support gives me a lot of positive energy...the thoughtfulness of people who don’t even know me is very very touching.”