BYU coach Steve Cleveland and the men's and women's basketball teams helped bring a little Christmas cheer this year to 64 families who have children with cancer.
The basketball teams helped the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation host its annual Christmas Party Tuesday night to help local families who have children with cancer. The party took place this year in the Cougar Room at LaVell Edwards Stadium as the Foundation has more than doubled the number of families it is helping since last year's event. Last year's party was held at the Harmon Downtown Auto Center in Provo.
"This year's party was the biggest ever," Cleveland said. "We had more than double the number of families from last year. We all geniunely love being involved and trying to bring some more Christmas cheer to these courageous young children and their families. They are a real inspiration."
The children and their siblings were able to play games, have posters autographed by the mens' and women's players, enjoy good food, and visit with Cosmo -- BYU's mascot, and, of course, Santa Claus. The children all received several gifts and the Pizza Factory provided food for all in attendance. Including volunteers and organizers, nearly 500 people participated in this year's party.
Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to providing assistance for children with cancer and their families. This assistance is provided in a number of ways, but primarily through the collection and distribution of gifts to children with cancer and their families during the Christmas holiday season.
For the past five years, the Foundation has collected toys and then distributed them to these special children and their families at a Christmas party. Coach Cleveland and the basketball teams have been a vital part of the party, helping distribute gifts, signing autographs, and spending significant time with the children. The women's team has participated the past two years. Cleveland has not only been a central part of the party, working hand-in-hand with Santa, but also has spent a great deal of time shopping to purchase gifts from donated funds.
"This has been a very rewarding experience for me and for the young men on the team," Cleveland said. "This helps give our players some perspective, to see that there is much more than basketball. It is a good opportunity to serve others. The Foundation is working hard to help all the families they can. Seeing these kids smile and enjoy themselves at the party is a nice feeling for everyone involved, especially considering all these families go through on a daily basis."
In addition to Cleveland serving as honorary chairman, his wife Kip has been actively involved as a committee member and Cheryl Rose, wife of BYU Associate Head Coach Dave Rose, is the Foundation's vice chairman. Many others volunteer their time and assistance. The Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation was founded by Mac Boyter, an adult cancer survivor, whose heart was touched by the suffering and plight of children undergoing treatment for cancer.
"We hope this provides the families with the opportunity to forget about their troubles for an evening," Cheryl Rose said. "It's also nice for these families to come together and get to know others who are going through similar experiences. We've had a lot of support from the community, people donating gifts and money, businesses donating food and other items. A lot of people have worked hard to make this a first-class evening for these families."
People wanting to become involved can contact Foundation Chairman Mac Boyter at 801-373-3031.
Listed below are a few comments from families who attended last year's Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation party.
"In May 1999 our 5-year-old son Randy was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I told the kids that Christmas would not be very much. I didn't have the time or the energy to make Christmas great. We were invited to a Kids with Cancer Christmas Party. We went expecting cookies and punch and maybe a small gift for Randy. It was so much more! The kids were ALL treated to several gifts from Santa and the ALL got to mingle with the basketball players. The siblings so often feel forgotten when there is a child made to feel special. That party made our holiday special. We can not express how grateful we are to this organization for making our Christmas not only one we will never forget but also one of the best ever!"
"We are so grateful to the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation. Every year my children look forward to going to their special Christmas party. As parents, we are overwhelmed by the generosity of those who participate. Thank you for bringing joy into lives that at times have so much pain."
"My two sons and I had the most wonderful time at your Christmas party for children with cancer and their families. After enjoying such an incredible evening of love and laughter and support, we were handed a huge ham on our way out the door. How can I possibly thank you enough? Words could never do justice to the depth of gratitude that I feel. Then to top it all off, we get tickets for all three of us to go to a BYU basketball game. We went and had a fabulous time. My oldest son was especially excited to watch these basketball heroes and superstars on the court and know he knew them personally. We are truly forever grateful for your generosity beyond limits."