Outlive & Samaritan's Feet: College Basketball Making a Difference

January 8th, 2009
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Hunter Goes Barefoot: IUPUI coach Ron Hunter walked the sidelines barefoot during a game last year in an effort to collect shoes for needy children around the world. Hunter was the only coach to do this last year. This year, he is not alone. Butler’s Brad Stevens, South Dakota State’s Scott Nagy, University of Missouri-Kansas City's Matt Brown, Indiana State's Kevin McKenna, and Detroit Mercy's Ray McCallum are among the 300 plus youth, high school, and college coaches that have pledged to coach one game barefoot around the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Samaritan’s Feet, the Charlotte, NC nonprofit organization that distributes the shoes, called Hunter last year and asked him to go barefoot for one game to help collect 40,000 pairs of shoes. By tipoff of the IUPUI vs. Oakland game, Samaritan’s Feet went above and beyond expectations and had 140,000 pairs. Hunter even helped deliver some of the shoes to children in Peru. Coach Hunter was recently selected ABC News person of the year after this cause gained serious national attention. "The children that have to go barefoot everyday don't prepare for it," he said. "It's a part of life."


OUTLIVE: A graduate manager at the University of Tennessee, Brooks Savage, came up with a business plan to help raise money and support cancer programs and screenings. This plan is called the “Outlive” program. Outlive is inspired by former all-conference guard Chris Lofton’s story. Lofton was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had surgery before the 2007-08 season had begun. Coach Bruce Pearl and company kept a promise to Lofton that they would not go public with this information until the completion of last season. With the story now being public, Tennessee is selling t-shirts in hopes of raising money for cancer outreach, education, and screenings. Pearl is counting on the fans to wear these shirts to their game against Florida on January 31 during Coaches vs. Cancer week, giving the arena a whiteout effect during a nationally televised game. "The Outlive program is a great way for everyone to support cancer screenings and education at UT Medical Center while honoring a great Vol - Chris Lofton," coach Pearl said. T-shirts can be purchased for $15 online. More than $10 from each sale will go toward the programs.


Ryter’s Block: College basketball and, well, all sports for that matter can use its popularity and national exposure to make a difference. These two instances are doing just that. To be honest, if someone approached me early on last season and asked me who Ron Hunter was I would have to think about it for a long time. Now immediately the first thing that comes to mind may be “The Coach from IUPUI who coached a game barefoot.” You know what? It worked. Everyone remembers. Everyone remembers that he did it for a cause; a cause to help children in need.  This year it has gained even more exposure and I believe that they will go above and beyond the expected goal of 1 million pairs of shoes.


Cancer kills one out of every four Americans. It will truly be something special when the Vols take the court against Florida with a sold out crowd all wearing white Outlive t-shirts. Brooks Savage has a special thing going. I think the support that everyone has for the Outlive program can make a difference.   It started with the V Foundation and not only are people donating to that foundation, which has raised over $80 million, but it has enabled others to have other ideas on ways to help…every little bit helps.