UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was not the fashion of the day to don a fedora to a men’s volleyball match.
Yet in Penn State’s three-set victory over St. Francis on Feb. 8, 2013, both coaches — Mark Pavlik of the Nittany Lions, and Mike Rumbaugh of the Red Flash — rocked business hats, starting a tradition that continues today.
Every time an Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) team plays its travel partner, the coaches wear these hats to raise awareness, and more importantly funds, for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
In 2003, the influential men’s volleyball coach of Concordia College in Bronxville, New York retired his team. It could not compete financially with the bigger and more prominent programs in the EIVA, let alone the west coast teams.
He did not leave the game, however, nor did he leave Concordia. He was named the EIVA’s first and only executive director, and he continued to work as Concordia’s athletic director, a position he had held since the 1995-96 school year.
Ivan Marquez, who still holds the EIVA executive director position, leads with a passionate, demanding nature, heading a conference with the most synergetic coaching staffs he has seen in his 20-plus years in athletics.
“I think Ivan does a good job as a leader for our group,” coach Fred Chao of George Mason University said. “He’s passionate about helping the conference.”
So when Marquez needed support, it was the EIVA community who rallied behind its commissioner as he began to fight against something bigger than the game — cancer.
In 2007, Marquez was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The disease has now reached Stage IV, which means the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It is the most advanced stage of cancer.
Life expectancy for Stage IV cancer is “rarely more than five years,” reads Prostate Cancer Victory’s website, mainly because the cancer is resistant to treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society, one in every seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during his lifetime. Behind lung cancer, it is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths for American men.
“I’m sure that everyone knows or is affected by someone who has cancer,” Marquez said. “There are many ways to help fight cancer.”
Chemotherapy, which is one way to fight cancer, uses drugs to kill or prevent the cancer cells from spreading throughout the body.
According to a study by Avalere Health, one episode of chemotherapy usually lasts three to four months. The average cost of these treatments is $20,000 in “office-managed settings,” and is $26,000 when cared for in a hospital outpatient department.
This same study also showed that the five year survival rate for women with breast cancer is 12 percent higher for those who underwent chemotherapy.
Because of the costly nature of chemotherapy and other forms of cancer treatment, many patients lack the money and insurance to pay for what they desperately need.
Many influential organizations try and aid these patients by fundraising, in hopes to find a more practical and effective method to cure cancer.
In early 2013, the EIVA coaches and organizers, including Pavlik and Chao, discussed the conference’s partnership with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the same institution that treats Marquez.
MSKCC and EIVA Rallies
Getting a philanthropy project started tends to be the most challenging part. If the coaches and organizers had taken on too many responsibilities for the EIVA to handle at once, the entire cause could have fallen through.
“We thought, ‘OK, let’s start small,’ ” Chao said.
Several ideas regarding the different ways to help those in need circulated among the group. They were looking for something that would make the spectators curious and interested about the cause, which would hopefully, in turn, compel them to donate.
The organization could not recall which contributor first suggested the fedora symbol, as the process of creating the project took over the recognition of a specific individual.
In volleyball, a rally is when both teams continuously hit the ball back-and-forth across the net without a point being awarded. At times these plays are long and enduring processes, which the EIVA hoped could symbolize each patient’s battles with cancer.
From there, the idea began to run. The EIVA partnered with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the EIVA Rallies campaign was born.
“We couldn’t think of a better cause than to get behind the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, especially because of how much it has affected Ivan, and all of us because of Ivan,” Chao said.
EIVA Rallies had the attention-grabbing quality, which is needed in most philanthropy projects, but the creators of the cause wanted more out of it than to just catch a spectator’s eye.
“If you don’t raise funds, there is no hope,” Marquez said. “As opposed to giving it one passing thought, [we hoped] that they would dedicate a sizable percentage [of money] to help fight cancer.”
And Saturday night, Penn State travels to St. Francis in what will be the second time this season the two teams have met.
Pavlik and Rumbaugh of the Red Flash will both don fedoras proudly, hoping to continue what has already become a great start to the long and enduring process.
Story Courtesy of Matt Martell, The Daily Collegian