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Annual cancer fundraising volleyball game shifts focus in honor of student’s mother

Falcon News Service

October 29, 2015

The UW-River Falls women’s volleyball team lost to UW-La Crosse 1-3 on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Karges Center. However, there was something different about this game.

Each October all sports teams around the WIAC hold a game where they highlight breast cancer and raise money to fight it. This year when the annual cancer awareness game, Dig Pink, rolled around for the volleyball team, the players decided to change it up and focus on raising awareness for bile duct cancer. Dig Pink turned into Dig Green, and for a very special reason.

Volleyball player Samantha Garvin’s life changed forever in 2011 when her mom, Maggie, was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a form of bile duct cancer. She was given a year to live. According to the American Cancer Society the survival rate for that type of cancer past five years is zero percent. Garvin’s mom is on her fourth year.

Garvin, No. 4 for the Falcons, recalled how that diagnosis changed her life and how it affected her relationship with her mom.

“It’s brought us closer, if anything. It made me realize how important family is and how much time I need to spend at home,” Garvin said “In five years I won’t care that I missed whoever’s birthday party. I’ll care that I spent another Sunday at home with my mom.”

However, just one month ago Maggie was told she would hopefully make it to December. But Garvin’s mom didn’t let that bring her down.

“She was like, ‘I don’t care, I’m going to make it another two years. I’m going to see your (little) sister graduate college,’” Samantha said with a laugh. “She said, ‘They’ve told me this stuff before, this is BS.’”

Maggie always had a positive attitude towards her diagnosis and worked throughout her treatments, but when the latest prognosis was given she had to leave work. Previously Maggie refused benefits that directly helped her, but was pleased by this event in her honor because it would aid others with the same diagnosis.

Samantha went to her teammates with the hope that they could raise awareness and money, but she found out they were already planning it.

The “Dig Green” event honored Maggie by having all the women warm up in black and green T-shirts that said “Team Maggie.” Fans at the game also wore green because it’s the color of the cancer. The announcer later introduced Maggie as an honorary coach for the night, and she came out on the court with her husband and two daughters.

According to head Coach Patti Ford, it was important to focus on the Garvin family.

“This year we thought since we had a person affected by cancer on our team, and it doesn’t get a lot of recognition, that we were going to go ahead and honor Sam’s mom and her family,” Ford said. “I think any time you can help out the cause in a big picture, but also help out and honor a family that’s going through some pretty tough stuff I think that’s what we do, and why we do what we do.”

To raise money the team sold T-shirts, bracelets, held a silent auction, and collected donations. But instead of the money benefiting the Garvin family, they decided all proceeds were to go to bile duct cancer research in the hopes that someone would be the first to make it past the five year mark.

Donations to the cause can be made online through the bile duct cancer page of the American Cancer Society’s website.

The Falcons are currently 14-19 overall, and 2-4 in conference. Their next match is away against UW-Oshkosh at 7 p.m. on Oct. 30.