PROVO — Coach Dave Rose and his wife Cheryl have been anxiously involved with the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation (CCCF) since he first came to BYU as an assistant coach. It wasn't until 2009, when Rose faced his own battle with pancreatic cancer, that the event became intimately more relatable to each of them, however.
The CCCF is now in its 15th year and has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings when several people banded together with the idea to do what they could for not only children afflicted with cancer but for their families. The foundation currently holds a two-night event that involves dinner, presents, Santa Claus, Cosmo and the BYU basketball team among other things.
"The BYU players and the coaches — they're sort of the highlight for these kids and their family," said foundation founder and cancer survivor Mac Boyter. "It's a great blessing to have them involved."
BYU basketball's involvement came about almost immediately after the idea of the CCCF was first hatched. Then BYU coach Steve Cleveland came to know about the foundation because of his involvement with Coaches versus Cancer.
Boyter said Cleveland and his wife just showed up along with then-assistant coach Rose and his wife to ask what they could do. What they immediately were able to do was to move the event to a bigger facility — the Cougar Room at LaVell Edwards Stadium. It wasn't before long, however, that even the Cougar Room proved to be too small, leading to them expanding it into a two-night event held at the gymnasium housed by the Vivint building in North Provo.
While Rose was fully committed to the foundation and its mission, it was Cheryl who put in most of the work. Boyter, seeing her dedication to their mission, soon invited her to become a member of the foundation, which she readily accepted.
"She has been absolutely fantastic," said Boyter. "She's given her whole body and soul to it, so frankly, where we are today and how we've grown — a lot of it is her fault."
"I just show up and talk about everything she does, but she's the one doing everything," added Rose. "That's kind of how it works."
Several years after Cheryl became a foundation member, it was learned that her husband had been diagnosed with cancer. Rose said his own experience in dealing with first the diagnosis and then the treatment, and how it affected not only himself but his family, gave him a new perspective.
"I really believed that I related to a family that had cancer because I had been around so many families over the years," he said. "But when it affected our family you realize — it's hard to explain, but when the doctor tells you that you have cancer, the world as you know it just stops and you try to find some type of relief, so that you can see good in the future and that's where we can relate to these families now where we couldn't fully do so before."
Rose's players also take a big part in the annual event, showing up every year with a great desire to do what they can to make the event a special one. Rose said his players look forward to the CCCF dinner party every bit as much as the families do.
One such player is senior Charles Abouo, who participated in the event for his fourth time Wednesday night.
"It's a highlight of every year for me and we look forward to it every year," he said. "It really helps put everything in perspective just thinking that a lot of these kids won't be here next year, so you want to give them everything you can — just do whatever you can to make them smile because they're truly an inspiration to all of us. You hear their stories and what they go through and what their families go through and it's amazing and truly an inspiration for all of us."
According to Rose, he can't have a conversation with a former player without them asking about a particular family that was part of the CCCF event. Many former players continue their support long after leaving the BYU basketball program.
"We have a lot of people come back every year and that's one of the things that makes it so special," said Boyter. "We have a lot of committed people and when you're around these families, seeing what they go through, and you can't help but be committed. We've truly been blessed to have so many great people involved in what we believe is a great cause."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company