Basketball still shows it's more than a game for Anchorage family
Colony High School takes on Anchorage Christian School in the annual Dimond Lady Lynx Prep Shootout Tournament. Both teams wear their familiar uniforms, however, the same can not be said for the referees. They wear special jerseys for Cancer Awareness Month.
So do the other game officials, including the timekeeper, Rhonda Gerharz.
"it's very special to me, and special to me through basketball," says Gerharz, who wears the jersey to honor her mother, Mary Rice.
Gerharz lost her second battle with breast cancer in 2008.
"My mom was that grandma, that mom who always supported every sport, the kids loved her," Gerharz said before her game.
Among the kids who cherished Rice, her grandson, Sterling Lopez, who played basketball at South Anchorage High School that season. The Wolverines advanced to the state tournament. However, Rice's illness hospitalized her and prevented her from attending the title game.
"So we got her a day pass, took her to the championship game, she was in her wheelchair, sitting on the mezzanine, very, very happy to be there," says Gerharz.
Her mother got even happier when her grandson and the rest of the Wolverines won the title.
"It was definitely one of her happiest days. My son, her grandson, Sterling, actually gave her his piece of the net that they cut," Gerharz recalled.
Breast cancer continues to be the leading form of cancer among women in Alaska. The American Cancer Society predicts the state will see more than 3,500 cancer cases this year -- 510 of them involve breast cancer. Meanwhile, cancer is expected to claim just over 1,100 lives in Alaska this year, with lung cancer the leading killer, with 70 women expected to lose their lives to it.
Breast cancer took Mary Rice's life in October 2008, five months after one of her happiest moments. No regrets from her family for what they did to bring rice some joy during her struggle.
"We knew it would be her last," says Gerharz, as she fought back tears, while she recalled the loss of one of the most important people in her life.
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