MASON CITY | Ten years ago, the idea of a Coaches vs. Cancer event came to Mason City through the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.
Coaches vs. Cancer, a way to raise money to benefit the American Cancer Society, had been building steam across the nation at that point, and Mason City girls basketball coach Curt Klaahsen decided it was time to jump in. That’s when he passed it on to assistant coach Tom Kirby, and ever since, Kirby, with the help of nearly a dozen other committee members, has turned Mason City into one of the top fundraising schools for the event in the state.
“It’s been great to see the growth,” Kirby said. “It started with the girls basketball team, but now it’s school-wide and community-wide. I’m wondering if humbling is the right word?
“There are so many things bigger than us and bigger than a single person. I’ve had many, many people come up to me and talk about the benefit from the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer, from trials to research. It’s just one of those things that this is why we do it.”
Friday’s girls and boys basketball doubleheader against Marshalltown marks the 10th year Mason City has been involved, and the school has a milestone goal in sight this year: to reach $100,000 total over the 10 years. In order to do so, they’ll need to raise $18,834. If they hit that number, it’ll be the most they’ve raised in one single year.
Over the past decade, the Coaches vs. Cancer event has become something almost every school participates in, and it’s stretching across most sports as well. Mason City just happens to be one of the top fundraising schools in the state.
Since starting 10 years ago, Mason City has been in the top five for school in the state every year, and has been the second-best in each of the past three years. Only Knoxville raises more — it has raised more than $500,000 in 10 years.
“It's always exciting to see the Coaches vs. Cancer event getting larger, raising more money, and having more people, teams, and groups involved,” Mason City cheer coach Donna McKay, who is on the committee, said. “I would love to see it become more of a total community event.”
The event particularly hits home for McKay, who is a cancer survivor herself, but she says it’s become more encompassing than just about the survivors.
“I think everyone has been affected by cancer in some way,” said McKay, who has be involved for “6 or 7 years.” “It's important that we work together to raise money to find a cure for this disease.”
Mason City’s has grown to involve all sports the school offers, and most play a role on the night of the event.
After straight donations, the most popular part of the event is the silent auction, which will include signed memorabilia from noteworthy Mohawk alums such as Jake Peter, Makenzie Meyer and Myah Mellman, plus a wide range of other items.
Mason City mayor Bill Schickel has declared Friday in Mason City to be Coaches vs. Cancer Day, and while the Mohawks are encouraging people to come out to the game, Kirby said donations are still welcome no matter what, even through your business.
Above all, the event is about bring the community together for one goal.
“It’s about recognizing all the people battling, those who have lost someone, or the survivors and being a part of their journey,” Kirby said. “My biggest thing is they’re not alone. We are a Mohawk community who fight with, for and alongside them. We want to put some of their burdens on our shoulders and it’s not something you should have to do by yourself.”