John Lazenby, Glencoe Public Schools superintendent and Panthers basketball coach, is the new Oklahoma representative on the national council for the American Cancer Society Coaches vs. Cancer.
For the past 25 years, the Coaches vs. Cancer program, in collaboration with the National Association of Basketball Coaches, has united coaches and fans nationwide to help defeat a common enemy – cancer. With their passion and dedicated support, the impact has been felt in communities nationwide.
Norm Stewart, former coach of the University of Missouri’s men’s basketball program, cancer survivor, and member of the NABC, provided the vision and inspiration for Coaches vs. Cancer. He challenged fans to pledge a dollar amount for every 3-point shot made by his team during the season. The concept evolved and soon the Coaches vs. Cancer program became a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the NABC. The ACS funds and conducts research, sharing expert information, supporting patients, and spreading the word about cancer prevention.
About 10 years ago, Lazenby became interested in the organization. In 1997, he lost his dad, John Lazenby Sr. to cancer.
Losing his dad had a big role in his involvement. During the annual state coaches’ clinic, the program was introduced to Lazenby. At first, Coaches vs. Cancer was only a small college association. But, over the years, it has blossomed into high schools and colleges all over the United States.
Lazenby decided to try it out in Glencoe.
“We probably raised $500 the first year,” he said.
The second year that Glencoe was involved in Coaches vs. Cancer, the community raised about $900.
As the years progressed, the money did too. Glencoe has placed first, second and third in Coaches vs. Cancer in Oklahoma. The community has raised around $35,000 in total.
“Mr. and Mrs. Hicks and their classes always go out of their way and do the most to help out,” Lazenby said.
Allen Hicks teaches history and Rebecca Hicks teaches math at Glencoe High School. Since the community has moved their Coaches vs. Cancer fundraising focus to the high school’s annual basketball tournament week, Glencoe’s numbers have increased greatly.
Unfortunately, Lazenby’s wife, Jennifer, passed away with cancer in 2016. And that affected the funds. Glencoe raised more than $9,000 in donations during the season. As part of the fundraising activities, coaches, teams and fans are empowered to fight cancer by participating in awareness efforts and advocacy programs, too. Most of the students and many community members are involved in Glencoe.
“When Jennifer was sick, we had a community to support us, but a lot of families don’t have the means to fight the disease,” Lazenby said. “And, let’s face it – I don’t know when, or if, we’ll find a cure for cancer, but I know the research takes money.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the program, and thanks to the efforts of thousands of passionate high school and college coaches, more than $110 million has been raised in support of the American Cancer Society’s mission. Through fundraising and education initiatives, the Coaches vs. Cancer program has helped the efforts to improve and save lives from cancer throughout the country and worldwide.
Lazenby had the opportunity to speak at the state coaches’ meeting about getting more Oklahoma schools to participate in Coaches vs. Cancer. There are about 500 high schools in Oklahoma but only 20 of those schools have participated. The fight isn’t over, and Lazenby wants more schools to battle for the cause.
Columnist Evan McDaniel and photographer Caitlin Leimenstoll are seniors at Glencoe High School. Newspaper course students Jamie O’Bryant and Jace Low Dog contributed to the report.