A town of around 7,300 people – with the help of opponents and neighboring communities – has been able to raise over $500,000 for the American Cancer Society in 10 years. That town is Knoxville, Iowa, and the 2018 edition of its Coaches vs. Cancer event raised at least $70,000 to put its fundraising efforts over the half-million-dollar mark.
“This was the first year ever that we had set a goal, so we were nervous about that,” Organizer Jim Uitermarkt said, “but we were also confident in knowing what our community does every year in support of Coaches vs Cancer. Surpassing a half-million dollars is simply hard to understand even though it has happened. It is simply astonishing what the community of Knoxville has done over the last 10 years to support the ACS as well as those in our community who have been affected by cancer. There is simply no way to think back 10 years and look at the $4,000 we raised and to have ever thought that could turn into $500,000 ten years later.”
The scene at Knoxville High School on Jan. 20 was simultaneously routine and astonishing to veteran participants and attendants of the Coaches vs. Cancer event. The commons area was filled with people, milling around the silent auction, enjoying barbecued pork prepared by Steve Coon, pink ice cream with the Flacks and enjoying every other fundraiser that makes the event the success it has become. As one stepped into the gym, the black and gold had become obscured by the light pink of this year’s T-shirts. Everyone was as proud of the pink as Knoxville’s traditional colors.
“The event is successful due many factors, but they all lead back to the same thing – the people of Knoxville. The entire community and school system has gotten behind this event and not just supported it financially, but with their efforts as well,” Uitermarkt said.
Of course, the event is not limited to just the game. It has not been for several years. Numerous people have tried to get involved to do something to show their support. Before the night even began, over $13,000 had been raised.
“The number of people who get involved with their time and talents in some way is a very large number year after year,” Uitermarkt said. “The event has turned into quite a tradition and it has become one of those events that people associate with our town, and what a positive thing for people outside of our community to think about when they hear Knoxville. It proves to everyone that this community is filled with thousands of caring and giving individuals and businesses.”
After the successful girls’ game – in which the Panthers topped Chariton on their way to the South Central Conference title – the traditional ceremony was held. In that time, other donations were presented, including over $4,500 from alumni volleyball and basketball games. Jay and Laura Smith of Mr. C’s donated $821 from a tip jar at the restaurant. Several local farmers, who contributed to the Bushels for a Cure fundraiser, donated $2,651 and Motor Inn raised $2,270.
The biggest check of the ceremony was presented by the Knoxville Cancer Relay team. The relay, held in October 2017, raised $23,501.67. To help raise that money, the relay team and community ran for a combined 1,381 miles in 24 hours.
The ceremony included a tribute to cancer survivors. The survivors highlighted this year were a throwback to the first Knoxville Coaches vs. Cancer event, as Anna Buttell and Mary Keefer were saluted. Anna and Mary, surrounded by their families, were celebrated for their successful battles against the disease.
Denise Conrad, with the American Cancer Society, then presented Uitermarkt and wife Angie – both of whom have put in countless hours to make all 10 Knoxville Coaches vs. Cancer events successful – with an award for leading the top fundraising high school event of its kind in the country. This is an honor Knoxville has held for many consecutive years.
Though the $500,000-plus donated by Knoxville may not directly come back into the community, the ACS benefits the local area through programs. Cancer has likely affected someone in every Knoxville resident’s life, and the research funded by donations continue to aid in the battle against the disease.
It is the personal effect cancer can have on one’s life that can inspire generosity. Mary Miller has led the creation of a quilt for a raffle, as well as baked dozens of pink cookies each year, as her contributions. She has some great help each year by her fellow Knoxville Middle School staffers and other volunteers. Both of Mary’s parents were taken by the disease. She finds this event, and her contributions to it, as a great way to honor them and their memories.
“It was a great day all around,” Uitermarkt added. “It was so nice to see all the alumni come streaming back through those doors to play basketball again, to see community members come to look the auction over, to have an awesome 10-year celebration ceremony between games, and then both the girls and boys capped off the night with big wins on the court. Simply put, It was an absolutely perfect day start to finish!”
There are too many people to list her to thank who add to the success of the event. Uitermarkt continued by saying, “We want to thank our great school system and community for all they do year after year to support C vs C. Thanks seems so small to us, and I am sure it does also to those who have or who currently are fighting this disease. We can only imagine how those battling cancer must feel when they see an entire community coming together to fight this disease with them.”