WU Volleyball Team Provides Donation to Lymphoma Research Foundation

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University volleyball team recently donated $754.15 to the Lymphoma Research Foundation by presenting a check to State Rep. Mitch Greenlick at Cone Field House. Greenlick is the founder and past president of the Oregon Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Greenlick is a 5-year survivor of lymphoma and the person who started the chapter in Oregon three years ago. He spent part of his time at Cone Field House talking with WU sophomore volleyball player Josephine Johnston, who's mother was diagnosed with lymphoma last year and is in remission now.

When Josephine showed up on campus with a bald head, teammates wondered, “Who was the new recruit.” Just weeks before Johnston had learned her mom had lymphoma, a dreaded form of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes. In a show of support for her mom, Josephine shaved her head just weeks before heading off to Willamette.

“My mom is not the kind of person who ever shows weakness." Josephine Johnston said. "So it was hard on us to figure out how to help. One of the things she was most worried about was losing her hair. So I shaved my head and told her, 'See, it’s not so bad.' So when I showed up here for college, I got a lot of questions,” recalls Johnston, a middle hitter from Florence, Mont.

It wasn’t long before her teammates learned the truth and pitched in to help. Recently, after gathering all of the proceeds from one of their matches, along with a portion of concessions and 100% of a 50-50 raffle, Willamette's volleyball players presented their donation to Greenlick.

WU Assistant Coach Becky Horn saw an opportunity to build team unity and help the community. With her guidance and the strong support of Head Coach Tom Shoji, the team designated September 26 as a fundraising event, with proceeds to go to the Oregon Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in practices and games and and all the things that go along with being a student-athlete. It helped our team to help in a cause that is bigger than we are,” Horn said. “That we were helping a teammate through a difficult time made it even more rewarding for our team.”

As he accepted the check, Greenlick thanked the team, not just for the donation, but for helping spread awareness about lymphoma. He noted that the Lymphoma Research Foundation is one where 100% of donations goes directly into fighting the disease.

“This is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer. The money you are donating goes 100% for the treatment of survivors or for the research that is showing us new and better ways to conquer this disease,” said Greenlick. “I am living proof that lymphoma can be defeated and that those who suffer from it can live full and active lives.”

But the Bearcat volleyball squad isn’t done yet.

Greenlick invited the team to participate in a 5K run/walk event at McCall Waterfront Park on Sunday, April 10, 2011 with an 8 a.m. registration and a 9 a.m. start. Players and coaches agreed on the spot that they would attend and help publicize the event among other Willamette students.

Current chapter President Howard Wineman said the volleyball team’s donation was one example of how people can come together to fight lymphoma.

“This is a great group of young women who came together to help a friend and teammate," Wineman said. "So often, not only are the patients left feeling isolated, but the family members suffer too. Josephone Johnston is both fortunate to have such great friends and to be able to help her mom and thousands like her fight this disease."

For more information on the 5K event, visit the Oregon Chapter's Lymphomathon website. You can e-mail the Oregon Chapter directly at Oregon@lymphoma.org. You also can learn more information about the Lymphoma Research Foundation at the LRF website.

NOTE: A significant portion of this article was provided in a press release from the Lymphoma Research Foundation. Special thanks to Geoff Sugarman and Michael Cox.

Josephine Johnston stands with State Rep. Mitch Greenlick, who founded the Oregon Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Josephine Johnston stands with State Rep. Mitch Greenlick, who founded the Oregon Chapter of the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

State Rep. Mitch Greenlick talks to the Willamette University volleyball team.

State Rep. Mitch Greenlick talks to the Willamette University volleyball team.

State Rep. Mitch Greenlick accepts a donation from the WU volleyball team to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

State Rep. Mitch Greenlick accepts a donation from the WU volleyball team to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.