Whether on or off the court, the Penn women’s basketball team is making a difference outside of just wins and losses.
While a team typically can’t make a charitable contribution with its play on the court, that is exactly what the Quakers are currently doing with their “Charge for a Cure” initiative.
The brainchild of coach Mike McLaughlin two years ago, the program gives the team an opportunity to impact lives by raising funds for several charities.
“We decided that each year we would pick five different organizations, and then over the course of the season, we would count the charges of each month,” assistant coach Kara Cassidy said. “The number of charges that were taken would go toward the foundations based on how much each person donated.”
Each of the five organizations to selected by the team has special meaning for the coaches and players.
For instance, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research was chosen because a friend of McLaughlin suffers from the disease. The association with basketball and the Coaches vs. Cancer program led the team to choose the American Cancer Society.
The other three charities are the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of America, the Dave Bryan Ride On Fund — which supports ALS research — and Go4theGoal, which assists the families of children who have pediatric cancer.
“I got into it because of my brother’s high school basketball coach,” said junior Kristen Kody, who selected Go4theGoal. “His daughter was diagnosed with cancer this year. I have been working to raise money, and I told the coaches about it, who really endorsed it.”
Due to personal connections with each of the charities, the Quakers have embraced charges more willingly.
“It is definitely an extra incentive,” Kody said. “Obviously, the main thing is that you are thinking to [take a charge] to get your team pumped up and make a good play for your team, but [Charge for a Cure] is in the back of your mind.”
And taking a charge? It’s not easy.
“[It] is something that requires toughness and sort of an attitude, giving up your body for the team,” Cassidy said. “They take pride in it because they know it’s for a good cause, and it’s for the good of the team no matter what physically.
“[The players] joke after the game that the more charges that they took in a game, the more they gained for Charge for a Cure.”
While the initiative has given the Quakers a chance to work with multiple charities, they are still working to do more and are currently looking to expand their charitable work during the upcoming month.
Cassidy said assistant coach Bernadette Laukaitis is working with her church to find a family the team can purchase and wrap Christmas presents for. She added that senior Katie Davis just spearheaded a project with the football team collecting athletic shoes for local children.
With an 0-3 start to the season, Penn’s focus on the charge may spur the Quakers to find a cure both on and off the court.