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Great Danes 'think pink' for Saturday's game

UAlbany Sports Information   09-20-2017

By Bob Weiner

ALBANY, N.Y. — Nearly everyone knows a family member or a friend who has battled the dreaded disease cancer in its many forms. That’s why the University at Albany “Purple Family” will be “thinking pink” for Saturday’s game against Villanova at 7 p.m. at Tom &Mary Casey Stadium.

Look closely at the Great Danes’ uniforms, and you will see names on the backs of their jerseys. To help raise awareness and funds to fight cancer, the UAlbany athletic department gave the community a chance to honor a loved one impacted by cancer. With a donation of $35, fans have honored their loved ones by having their names appear on a jersey during the “Pink Game.” Spectators who made the donation also received two tickets to the game and the ability to purchase two additional tickets at a discounted price.

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The fight against cancer is a personal one for both UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso and athletic director Mark Benson.

Gattuso will have the name of his late brother-in-law, Billy Bridgman, on the back of a jersey. 

“Billy had liver and lung cancer,” Gattuso explained. “He didn’t drink or smoke. It was really scary. When he got sick, it was very hard on all of us. He was only 55 years old when he died. He had surgery in the hospital where my wife worked, and we were all hoping he would come out of the surgery OK. It was always a risk. Unfortunately, he passed away. We were all caught off guard. It was so unexpected.”

Gattuso recalled that his brother-in-law was the kind of person who was easily liked.

“It was such a tragic scenario. He was so young. He had a great character and was a good guy,” Gattuso said. “He was a musician who loved karaoke. He was also an inventor who helped invent the first fire blankets. He was so talented that he came up with radio jingles. Billy was an interesting person who was a lot of fun, just like his father, who also died of cancer.”

Gattuso said he is proud to be involved in the Pink Game and what it stands for.

“Just like the Military Appreciation Game we started, I think this will catch on,” he said. “I think it’s a cool thing. The thing about cancer that we’ve all got to realize is that there are so many forms of the disease. The list of cancer types is so long I can’t even read it. Plus, in my family, we are all fair-skinned. Many of us have skin-cancer issues. I think all of us can reach out and touch someone when it comes to cancer. I think it’s a cool thing to remember and honor the people who have gone through it.”

Like Gattuso, Benson has personal reasons for getting involved with both the Pink Game and the month-long “Real Men Wear Pink Campaign.”

“We came up with the idea for the Pink Game as part of our mission to raise awareness for breast cancer,” Benson said. ‘We want people to get tested and get treatment. It’s part awareness and part fundraiser. This is very important for me, because my first boss, Debbie White, gave me my first job at Old Dominion. She hired me back in 1995, and she is a two-time breast cancer survivor. Through my relationship with her, we always had an annual Pink-Out, and a Ring of Survivors at a women’s basketball game every year. We brought out community members who had the disease or were survivors from it. They walked out to that Gloria Gaynor song, ‘I will survive.’ It brought out smiles and tears to everyone’s eyes.”

Benson also pointed out that his mother-in-law, Linda Brunick, is also a breast cancer survivor.

“Cancer touches everyone,” Benson said. “It’s something we will all face and deal with in our lifetime. I’ve got three daughters, and eventually, I would love to get a cure for this.”

Benson is one of 25 Capital Region business leaders who are working together to raise more than $50,000 over the next two months to fight cancer. He will wear pink every day in October.

Benson said all 25 Capital Region leaders will be brought onto the field during Saturday night’s game. The CDTA pink bus also will be on hand that night.

For more information about the American Cancer Society, call (800) 227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

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