Mequon - Coming out of the tunnel at Lambeau Field in 1998, as the Green Bay Packers were being announced and taking the field, LeRoy Butler looked up to see a pink ribbon on the jersey of a young woman in the stands above him.
He remembers yelling up to her, asking what the ribbon meant.
"It's for breast cancer," she called back.
That brief exchange at Lambeau, Butler recalls, was the beginning of his awareness of the breast cancer support community and the genesis of the LeRoy Butler Foundation, which deals exclusively in breast cancer support.
Unlike many support organizations, the LeRoy Butler Foundation donates money directly to women battling cancer, and is looking to start a scholarship program for children of breast cancer victims.
"What we found were women trying to make a decision: Do I pay my bills, or do I buy my medication?" Butler says.
So his foundation, in conjunction with students at Concordia University Wisconsin, came together last week to raise money for five local women struggling under the weight of their treatments.
By playing dodgeball.
The idea came from a fall section of Liberal Arts 105, a freshman-level course that culminates in a service project.
"Someone threw out the idea of a dodgeball tournament," CUW freshman Paige Steen says, "and no one really guessed it would escalate like it did, but it became this really big deal."
The tournament quickly ballooned to 26 teams of six, all of which paid admission for each player. The students sold shirts, took donations, and raffled off memorabilia, the proceeds from which went to the foundation, and from there, to the area women.
"We're kind of being able to make that decision for them," says CUW freshman Jenna Johnson, who first contacted Butler about the idea of the tournament, "that their medical bills can now start getting paid for. It's another thing off their list that they no longer have to worry about."
Occupational Therapy Professor Michael McKinnis, who taught the class and oversaw the project, has had breast cancer in his own family. To him, the tournament was a source of pride, and a chance for his students to grow.
"I love . . . helping them (students) . . . figuring out who they are as people and then helping them take that next step of being the best of who they are," McKinnis says.
Butler recalls shooting a promotional video for the Susan G. Komen Foundation with Brett Favre just weeks before Favre's wife, Deanna, was diagnosed, and says, when it comes to helping those with breast cancer, his four daughters are always on his mind.
"I didn't want them to one day get diagnosed and I never did anything about (breast cancer)," Butler says.
And, he added with the chuckle and wit which put so many nervous, eager fans at ease when they met him at the tournament:
"I didn't want to be stuck on the planet with a bunch of guys."
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
LeRoy encourages anyone struggling with breast cancer medical bills, or anyone who knows someone struggling with those bills, to apply for assistance on the LeRoy Butler Foundation website: lbf36.org
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