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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA fraternity holds run for former basketball coach, Lute Olson

Jen Pimentel
Runners prepare to start the Lute Olson Cancer Center Run along the UA Mall on Sunday, Feb. 28. The UA Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity sponsored event has been raising money to help cancer research since 2001.

The annual Lute Olson Cancer Center Run brought in race participants from the Tucson community to raise money for the UA Cancer Center on the UA Mall on Sunday morning.

The event featured both a 3-kilometer and 8-kilometer run for participants, as well as booths for event sponsors and an appearance by Lute Olson, the retired UA basketball champion head coach and the man for whom the event is named.

The event was initially called Catwalk when it started in 2001, according to Olson.

It was started shortly after the death of Olson’s wife, Bobbi, who died from ovarian cancer complications.

During its start, the money raised from the race primarily went toward women’s cancer research. Since then, the use of the money raised has been more flexible to allow the Cancer Center to decide where the money is needed the most, according to Olson.

“There’s probably not a person in this group that hasn’t had somebody deal with cancer, so it’s like an epidemic and the only way we’re going to be able to find a cure is through money for research, so we’ve been doing this,” Olson said.

One hundred percent of the race proceeds go to the Cancer Center, where they are then donated in the Bobbi Olson Fund for cancer research, according to Carter Hoffman, one of three chairmen of the UA Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, the organization that hosts the annual event.

The fraternity has been in charge of organizing the event for the past six years after the Fraternity and Sorority Programs office, the original event sponsor, ceased sponsoring the event.

“Because Lute Olson is an honorary member of Pi Kappa Alpha, we decided that it was our obligation to keep it going and sponsor the event that’s in memory of his wife who passed away from cancer,” Hoffman said.

Planning for the event started around June, Hoffman said, where much of the work involved contacting sponsors for the event.

Sponsors are especially important in raising funds for cancer research, according to Olson.

“That’s really where you make the money, rather than just the money from the people that register,” Olson said. “The Pikes have done a great job of getting the title sponsor.”

Participation in the event has nearly doubled, according to Hoffman.

“I’m really excited about that. As far as that goes, I just want to see it keep growing, exponentially get better,” Hoffman said.

The event also featured booths from other community partners like the Better than Ever Program, a community outreach program at the Cancer Center that promotes cancer research and prevention through weekly walking and running groups.

According to Adrienne Lent, the program coordinator for the Better than Ever Program, participating in the run does more than just raise funds for cancer research.

“It’s also a great way for our athletes to get out and get some exercise and participate in the 8k and the 3k,” she said. “Physical activity has been scientifically shown to prevent a lot of common cancers so the more active we can get our community the less of a burden cancer is going to be.”

Getting the community involved in the run is something that both Olson and Hoffman said they are working towards. For Hoffman, involvement from the community outside of the UA is especially important.

“We’ve kind of strived to make it a Tucson-oriented event, not just a UA event, because the thing is, it’s Tucson company sponsoring a Tucson event that helps fund Tucson doctors and ultimately help cure patients that are Tucson locals,” Hoffman said. “So that’s one thing that we really push for.”

For some though, the fact that the race is a UA event is one of the reasons they participate.

Mike Bukowski, a race participant and UA alumnus of the class of 1988, said he brought his sons to the race to “[pass] it on” to them and to get back on campus.

“We moved out of Tucson probably about 20 years ago,” Bukowski said. “It’s just nice to come home.”

The event is a chance to bring the UA and Tucson community together.

“A lot of Tucson research is done by Tucson doctors, but also UA students,” Hoffman said. “It’s kind of nice to see it all come full circle and really embody the city of Tucson with a name like Lute Olson. That’s something we really wanted to accomplish.”

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