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UCLA basketball raises $150K in annual Dribble for Victory Over Cancer fundraiser

Redshirt sophomore forward Emily Bessoir dribbles the ball alongside a child at the Dribble For Victory Over Cancer. This is the Bruins’ 15th year hosting the event. (Courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

By Leila Bivins

Oct. 13, 2022 10:32 p.m.

The Bruins hosted the annual Dribble for Victory Over Cancer on Sunday, renewing their 15-year commitment to the fight against pediatric cancer.

UCLA Athletics and men’s and women’s basketball partnered with the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and the V Foundation for Cancer Research to raise over $150,000 at this year’s Dribble for Victory Over Cancer – and over $2 million over the past 15 years.

The Dribble for Victory Over Cancer was founded by John Vallely, a UCLA Hall of Famer, NBA player and two-time national champion under John Wooden.

Coach Cori Close said she was significantly impacted by meeting Vallely and hearing his story, which informed her own mission at the helm of the women’s basketball program.

“I was introduced to John Vallely in my office. And honestly, that conversation was a big part of forming my mission,” Close said. “He said, ‘I’ve been married 38 years because of what Coach Wooden taught me, I started three successful businesses because of what Coach Wooden taught me, I’ve conquered cancer three times because of the strength Coach Wooden gave me.’ And last he said, ‘I’ve just survived the death of my 12-year-old daughter because of the way Coach loved me.’”

Since its beginning in 2008, Dribble for Victory Over Cancer has expanded to other men’s and women’s basketball programs across the country.

Senior forward Brynn Masikewich and senior guard Charisma Osbourne participated in their fourth UCLA Dribble for Victory Over Cancer event Sunday, walking and dribbling with children battling pediatric cancer.

“It was really cool how they looked up to us,” Masikewitch said. “But in reality, we were looking up to them. You know how strong they are and how they’ve gone through so much.”

The event concluded in Pauley Pavilion with the awarding of the Erin Vallely Courage award to Close. Close was granted the award after 12 years of participation in the Dribble for Victory Over Cancer event at UCLA.

This award was created by John and Karen Vallely in memory of their late daughter Erin. Erin passed away at the age of 12 in 1991 after a 2 1/2-year fight against pediatric cancer. The Vallelys’ commitment to pediatric cancer and research for the cure was largely impacted by the passing of Erin.

“I was, first of all, shocked. There’s just so many other people that honestly work so much harder than I do. But I still was just humbled and honored,” Close said. “One of our core values as a program is that we want everyone to leave as lifestyle givers. And if I can just bring light to that, that it’s more meaningful to give than to receive, then it’s worth it.”

While Close was shocked, the award came as no surprise to Osborne.

“She’s just such a giver. … She’s always asking ‘How can I serve you? How can I serve you?’” Osborne said. “That just shows who she is and why she deserved that award, because of how she carries herself – with us, with other people, and with people she may not even know.”

The Bruins have fundraised over $100,000 for 12 consecutive years, coinciding with Close’s hiring and her first Dribble for Victory Over Cancer – then Dribble for the Cure – 12 years ago. Since then, Close has participated in the event every year without fail.

“I just want to use every aspect of my life to help other people get better,” Close said. “I’m not there yet. I’m still a work in progress. What I want to grow into is that I’m always hunting for opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life.”

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Leila Bivins | Sports contributor
Bivins is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball beat.
Bivins is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball beat.
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