Kampe leads the way to raise $162,250 for American Cancer Society

Finding someone who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way is nearly impossible.

According to Cancer.org, as of January 2014, nearly 14.5 million Americans have a history of or are currently fighting the disease. An estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2015.

A more profound number: 589,430. That’s how many Americans are expected to lose their lives to cancer this year.

That’s 1,620 people every day.

Raising awareness wasn’t the goal men’s head basketball coach Greg Kampe had in mind when he began brainstorming fundraising ideas just days after one of his players, redshirt senior Tommie McCune, lost his mother to the disease on June 2, 2014.

After McCune’s mother passed, Kampe made a public statement concerning the loss. A few days later, the American Cancer Society was at his office door asking if he could do something.

He didn’t have to think twice before agreeing, but he did have to think hard about what he could do.

“I wanted to do something that would have a huge effect. I wanted to do something that would make an impact. And I wanted to do something nobody’s ever done before,” Kampe said.

“Everybody’s aware of cancer. It’s time to beat it.”

Initially, they came up with the Beat Cancer game, which was the first home game of the 2014-15 men’s basketball season.

But Kampe wasn’t satisfied with that. He wanted to do more.

The event wasn’t organized overnight ─ it actually took several minds and nearly a year of planning. But once the brainstorming was completed, “24 hours to beat cancer” was born.

Kampe and nine of arguably the greatest active coaches in the nation teamed up to create a first-of-its-kind event.

Those coaches included Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Jim Beilein (Michigan), Roy Williams (North Carolina), Sean Miller (Arizona), Bob Huggins (West Virginia), Steve Alford (UCLA), Josh Pastner (Memphis), Rich Barnes (Tennessee) and John Calapari (Kentucky).

It started with a silent auction that opened mid-April and closed at the beginning of May. People placed bids to spend 24 hours with one of the high-profile coaches.

Those hours encompassed a stay at MotorCity Casino in Detroit on Sunday, May 31 and a game of golf at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills the following day. The winning bidders were accompanied by two guests of their choice and the coach they bid on.

The event raised exactly $162,250. Every cent went to the American Cancer Society.

“We can’t compare this event to others because it’s very unique and in a class all by itself,” American Cancer Society Senior Manager of Community Engagement Chimeme Anderson said.

“This was a remarkable amount of money raised through a first-time fundraiser of this caliber and [we] couldn’t be more pleased and appreciative of the outcome.”

Coaches, the winning bidders and their two guests arrived in Detroit on Sunday afternoon. An exclusive dinner for them, some sponsors and members of the American Cancer Society was held later that night.

Guests were primarily from Michigan, but there were some from Kentucky, West Virginia, Illinois and Indiana.

Following the dinner, Kampe, Huggins and the sponsors made brief speeches. After, everyone went to the casino.

Early the next morning, the coaches took a bus to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak to visit patients and family members. That’s when the two most memorable moments for Kampe happened.

The first was something a patient and his parent said to him at the hospital. The second was the bus ride there.

“I laughed for 45 minutes straight listening to coaches tell stories,” Kampe said.

The winning bidders took pictures with and received autographs from all 10 coaches at the golf course before the event ended with a game of golf and one last dinner.

Kampe said that in all of his business life, this event was the best thing he’s ever been a part of. The intimacy of it was what set it apart from other events he’s participated in.

And if the six figures raised wasn’t enough to confirm that he made the impact he wanted to, the card he received just three days after his visit to the hospital did.

“It was a highlighted break we all need to continue to battle on this journey,” the card read. “You are a great man with a big, big heart. You have made an impact on all of us.”

The event is something Kampe, other coaches and the American Cancer Society want to continue in the future and although he said it couldn’t have gone any better, he still isn’t satisfied.

“I’m not happy with the 160 [thousand]. I want 500 [thousand],”he said.

With the connections Kampe has, combined with the success of the event this year, he’s hopeful that this goal can be accomplished.