Sun Devil Family Charities steps up to help ASU families

November 19, 2012

One day in June 2009, a routine doctor’s visit for an earache brought a shocking diagnosis for three-year-old Taylor Souza: acute myelogenous leukemia. Her mother had noticed bruises on her legs and stomach, but she never dreamed her vibrant daughter, a twin, would soon be fighting for her life.

Taylor’s treatment required being at the hospital for up to 50 days at a time, leaving her mother Kristen unable to work. Though the Souzas had health insurance, the loss of a salary was devastating. Scott Holland Download Full Image

As graduates of ASU, Kristen and her husband Sean were able to apply for financial assistance from Sun Devil Family Charities, a four-year-old organization that has already helped more than 50 families. It was formed to help ASU-related families who are experiencing financial hardship because of a medical condition.

The Souzas’ application was approved, and as Taylor spent eight months in the hospital, Sun Devil Family Charities (SDFC) was able to bring them some relief from financial burdens.

“Knowing we had their support allowed us to put all of our energy into Taylor’s recovery, not worrying about the medical bills,” said Kristen.

This year they celebrated two years of Taylor being completely free of leukemia and out of treatment.

Scott Holland, an ASU alum and current president of SDFC, said he was especially affected by Taylor’s diagnosis, having a three-year-old daughter himself at the time.

“I couldn’t help but personalize it, with my daughter in mind,” said Holland. “Meeting with Taylor’s father after she went into remission was a very emotional event, as I felt especially connected to the miracle of her recovery.

“We all get so wrapped up in our daily jobs, and our career, that we tend to forget what other people go through, and how truly fortunate we are. We all should be giving back. All the friends I made at ASU, the Sun Devil family, are a huge part of my life, and I’m glad to be a part of this.”

The nonprofit public charity grew out of the SAVEJOE Foundation started by ASU offensive guard Joe Cajic, who had leukemia and wanted to increase the number of donors in the bone marrow registry. Cajic’s life was eventually saved by a bone marrow transplant, and the group continued to help others in similar situations.

When another ASU alum became ill and needed a double lung transplant, Cajic and foundation volunteers decided to branch out to raise funds for all those connected to ASU who are experiencing a medical hardship. Sun Devil Family Charities, formed as a 501c3 in 2009, now provides temporary assistance to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and their family members.

A committee of health care professionals screens applicants, with SDFC most often helping fill the gap between insurance and a family’s ability to pay. This year they have provided more than $40,000 to fund 16 families. Their funds come from selling food and beverages at tailgates before home games, shared fundraisers and an annual golf tournament.

Ebony Kelly, an ASU alum with a successful career at American Express, was one of the first recipients when she became gravely ill with polymyositis, a chronic inflammatory disease. SDFC volunteers swung into action with a billiards tournament and a car wash to help pay her costs for a double lung transplant. They helped drive her to appointments and fill out the mountain of paperwork.

ASU graduates Christine Topping and Sarah Hess, both young mothers who were diagnosed with breast cancer, have received support from the foundation in the past two years. Recipients this year include a 36-year-old employee with a brain tumor, an alum’s sister with breast cancer, and a graduate’s 8-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy. 

The Foundation welcomes donations of time, money, in-kind services or items for auction or raffle at fundraising events. Individuals with an ASU connection who have financial need because of medical costs are encouraged to apply for aid.

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Sun Devil women's basketball falls to UTEP, 60-54

November 19, 2012

Despite a career-high 16 points from junior guard Adrianne Thomas and a game-high 12 rebounds from Joy Burke, the Arizona State women's basketball team fell to UTEP 60-54.

One week after allowing Texas Tech to shoot 48 percent in a 61-49 loss, the Sun Devils (0-2) tightened up their defense as UTEP (3-0) shot only 34 percent, including 14 percent (1-7) from 3-point range. In addition the Sun Devils out rebounded the Miners 40-38. Download Full Image

The Sun Devils played much of the game without senior forward Janae Fulcher, who left the game due to injury with just over 11 minutes remaining in the first half. The Sun Devils were also without senior guard Micaela Pickens during critical stretches of the second half as she was forced to leave the game with an injury before later returning.

The absence of Fulcher, who was 2-2 from the floor at the time she left the game, played a role in the Sun Devils not being able to show the same progress on offense as they had on defense as they shot 34 percent for the game.

More than 40 percent of UTEP's points came at the foul line where the Miners connected on 25-of-39 attempts as the defensive-minded Sun Devils were whistled 27 times. Three Sun Devils - Jada Blackwell, Burke and Pickens - would foul out by game's end leaving ASU shorthanded down the stretch.

Sunday's game was tightly contested as the two teams would account for 15 lead changes and 10 ties, the last one coming when Chrishauna Parker scored on a layup to knot the game at 45-45 with 4:35 left. Parker's bucket started a 17-9 run the Miners would use to close out the game. 

Parker, who led UTEP with 15 points, connected on a pair of free throws on UTEP's ensuing possession to put the Miners up 47-45. Following a Sun Devil turnover, UTEP would extend its lead to five following a 3-pointer by Kelli Willingham, the Miners' only 3-pointer of the game.

The Sun Devils would get within three points on four different occasions over the last three minutes of the game, however were unable to get any closer. ASU's best chance to force overtime came with under a minute left when Thomas scored on a layup to get ASU within three and then came up with a steal, giving the Sun Devils a chance to tie or get within one. Isidora Purkovic's 3-pointer missed its mark and the Sun Devils were forced to foul the rest of the way.

The first half was a back-and-forth affair as neither team led by more than four points. Fulcher sparked ASU's offense early on as she scored four of the Sun Devils' first six points.

UTEP struggled to find its shooting touch in the game's opening minutes as it did not make a field goal until nearly six minutes had expired. Although they struggled from the floor, the Miners were still able to generate five points via the foul line.

ASU would take slim a lead into the locker room as Thomas connected with a buzzer beater from beyond half court to give the Sun Devils a 28-27 halftime advantage.

In addition to Thomas' 16 points, also contributing on the offensive end for ASU were Burke, Pickens and Purkovic, who each scored seven points.

The Sun Devils return to action next week when they travel to Las Vegas for the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout. The Sun Devils will face Northern Iowa on Friday (noon PT/1 p.m. MT), N.C. State on Saturday (2:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. MT) and Florida on Sunday (noon PT/1 p.m. MT).

Juno Schaser

Event coordinator, Biodesign Institute