Where I wasn't able to help out when I was younger," he said, "this has given me almost like a second chance to come back and help out with the cause. —Brian Zettler, Jazz team trainer
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz trainer Brian Zettler's eyes get extra watery when he reminisces about his grandpa. Leukemia claimed the life of Red Mills when Zettler was in college at Texas A&M, and the pain still surfaces a couple of decades later.
"He was a father figure to me," Zettler said of Grandpa Mills. "We were really close."
Zettler is also close to 22-year-old Shadoh Campbell, another of his family members whose mortality is being challenged by cancer. The single mother and college student is suffering from Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Zettler's mother-in-law, Linda Hays, died five years ago from gall bladder cancer.
Inspired by these family members, Zettler is doing what he can to fight the cancer monster.
The Jazz assistant athletic trainer/equipment manager is participating in a 10-week fundraising competition for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
As part of that, Zettler has organized a fun "Rock Em! Sock Em!" event for the night of April 11 at the Zions Bank Basketball Center.
Depending on the donation, contributors will get a chance to meet and shoot with Jazz players at their practice facility while everybody sports only socks on their feet. (He jokes that Enes Kanter will put his elbow in anybody's ear who doesn't follow the rules.) Attendees are encouraged to wear '80s style clothes, and music from that era will be playing.
The event will also include a limited number of locker room tours, photo opportunities with Slam Dunk champion Jeremy Evans and his 2012 trophy, and a silent auction with items such as autographed, game-worn Jazz shoes; signed jerseys from Jimmer Fredette, Kevin Durant, Karl Malone, Deron Williams and others; tickets for local sporting events and outdoor adventures, and autographed basketballs.
"It's a great cause," Zettler said. "It's one that's really hit home to me."
Because of his job, Zettler can't be in Texas to do more for Campbell in person. This is his straight-from-the-heart way of reaching out and helping her and honoring the memory of his grandpa and mother-in-law.
"Where I wasn't able to help out when I was younger," he said, "this has given me almost like a second chance to come back and help out with the cause."
All donations to the "Rock Em! Sock Em!" event or financial contributions are tax deductible and go 100 percent to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to help people with cancer.
"They have all kinds of incredible benefits and assets they can provide to people," Zettler said. "If it wasn't a worthy cause, I wouldn't be involved in it in the middle of a season while we're going through the playoff crunch."
The fundraising competition has a fun element to it. Whomever raises the most money will be honored as the Man/Woman of the Year.
"The award part, that means nothing to me," Zettler said. "It's just the fact of trying to raise money for a great cause."