New Orleans, La. - The national spotlight shines on New Orleans once again come April.
The countdown to the NCAA Women's Final Four Championship started Wednesday with a major donation to cancer research in the city. Such big events are not just glitz and tourism; they often leave behind lasting impacts.
"Get involved. Be a part of these special events. It is the queen of all events and it's a celebration of some phenomenal women," said Vice-President of Women's NCAA basketball Anucha Browne.
The Women's Final Four Championship makes New Orleans home for the first weekend in April, and Browne is ready to pick and roll in the Big Easy, with the NCAA bringing a number of fan events to town.
For instance, there will be a ticketed Salute to the Final Four at Mardi Gras World Friday evening, April 5, and many free events through the weekend. Tourney Town, an interactive basketball skills park will set up next to the New Orleans Arena. Saturday morning, April 6, runners can help fund the Kay Yow Cancer Research Fund with the 4Kay Run. Open practices and team autograph sessions also take place that day.
Youth clinics will be offered at other sites, with the Big Easy bounce allowing kids to dribble their way from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Sunday, April 7, Tourney Town features a free concert headlined by Taio Cruz.
It's not just about the media attention, full hotels and busy restaurants. "To our constituents who say, 'Why are you doing this, just for them? Because when they leave, they are gone...' We hope you see your new airport renovation that has $three million in investments," pointed out Mayor Mitch Landrieu in reference to a major development spurred by the recent Super Bowl. "These events bring back to the city, not just in terms of the number of tourists that are coming, but the economic impact and the jobs that it creates."
In just a few weeks the Arena will once again be decorated for another national event, but it's the things left behind that might be most important. The give-back began with a $100,000 check from the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
"Go raise money and go fund women's cancer research" was the directive that legendary North Carolina basketball coach Kay Yow gave to Susan Donohoe, her foundations director, before Yow's death in 2009. The fund now makes a sizeable donation in every city where the women's tournament takes place to fund women's cancer research.
This money will fund lung cancer research at the brand new Tulane Cancer Research Center. Dr. Victoria Belancio is spearheading the study, which springboards from a discovery made by Cancer Center Director Prescott Deininger. Belancio said, "What we're hoping to find out is how much and in what ways this element contributes to the origin and progression of disease."
The money will help her team collect enough data to garner even larger awards and donations. Belancio said, "It's really going to help support work that otherwise we wouldn't be able to do because the number of ideas that we have in the lab especially those that are related to cancer."
It's a small start for some possibly far-reaching results and just a beginning in another great party, heading our way in 40 days.
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