Hoops of Hope

From pink socks to non-profit outreach, Santa Clara Women’s Basketball hosted their annual Pink Game to honor families impacted by cancer.

Hoops of Hope
Keeley Frawley MBA ’27 and the Santa Clara Women's Basketball Team donned pink warmup outfits in honor of National Cancer Prevention Month. Photo courtesy of Samantha Zagha.

In honor of National Cancer Prevention Month, Santa Clara Women’s Basketball brought a splash of pink to the Leavey Center for its annual Pink Game on Feb. 10. Sporting bright pink socks and warmup outfits, the team defeated Saint Mary’s 70-58 and stood in solidarity with individuals and families impacted by cancer, turning the court at Leavey Center into a vibrant display of support and hope.

The Pink Game holds a particularly special place in the heart of player Danja Stafford Collins ’23, M.A. ’25, who lost her sister-in-law to cancer two years ago and has witnessed her brother, cousin, and grandma grapple with chemotherapy. Her family’s battle with cancer fuels her current pursuit of a master’s in health psychology at Santa Clara.

“My brother was diagnosed with pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ‘Pre-Ball.’ We always used to giggle about that since we’re a sports family—he’s our baller,” says Collins. “Seeing cancer strip my loved ones of so many life milestones has made me extremely invested in studying the importance of providing mental health care for those fighting such physical health complications. Santa Clara’s Pink Game creates a safe space to bring uncomfortable conversations about the disease to the table and dedicates a day to remembering all the hard-fought battles. It’s so special.”

At the game, SCU Athletics highlighted Bay Area Cancer Connections (BACC), whose mission is to support those affected by breast or ovarian cancer with personalized services such as pro-bono counseling, support groups, financial assistance, a boutique for wigs, bras, prosthetics, and help understanding diagnoses, pathology reports, and treatment suggestions provided by their doctors.

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Danja Stafford Collins ’23, M.A. ’25 is a graduate student studying health psychology and a forward for the Santa Clara Women’s Basketball Team. Photo provided by Collins.

While the featured non-profit inspired the team to don pink attire, specifically aimed at raising awareness for breast cancer, the game also provides a platform for other non-profits—like the American Cancer Society and Latinas Contra Cancer—to educate the Santa Clara community about all types of cancer and to allow community members to share their own experiences.

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Malia Latu ’25 warmed up before SCU’s Pink Game against Saint Mary’s College. Photo courtesy of Samantha Zagha.

Joanie Juster, BACC’s community engagement coordinator, met with the women’s basketball team before the Pink Game to present a list of resources available to anyone in their lives dealing with cancer.

Juster, who grew up in Santa Clara, says when her father died of cancer when she was 19, there was no support available to her or her family to help them cope with his illness or death. Now, at BACC, she works for an organization that provides the kinds of resources and support she wishes had been available years ago.

“Cancer is a hard topic to discuss—the very word scares people. But that’s exactly why it’s important to discuss with students,” says Juster. “Learning to be aware of your own body and how to take charge of your own healthcare are important lessons everyone needs to learn as they grow older and become responsible for their health. Cancer doesn’t just affect the patient, it affects their entire circle—family, friends, co-workers. … And it was great to see how engaged these young women were in the topic.”

Juster says she’s grateful Santa Clara Women’s Basketball is using their platform to spread cancer awareness to team members as well as their families and peers. “A pink ribbon alone means nothing unless you back it up with real education and awareness,” she says.

Coming from a family of athletes, Collins says sports were a constant escape and support system while members were going through the chemo process. “The countless coaches that would take my siblings and I to and from practice, provide us meals to make sure we were fed, the lifelong friends that always want to see you winning, sports were the glue that kept my family together,” she says.

The Pink Game at Santa Clara extends the power of sports beyond the court, reminding us of the social impact athletic teams can have when leveraging their platforms for community outreach and education.

“Basketball is bigger than me, bigger than us, bigger than the game. As athletes, we have a platform to be a voice for change,” says Collins. “I want to be an athlete with intention, one that supports the people around me and leaves the world brighter than I found it.”

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