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Lobos gala marks 10th year of fighting cancer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A fundraising effort started a decade ago under former University of New Mexico head basketball coach Steven Alford is still going strong but it has a new name and a new focus.

Season Elliott

In its first few years, the fundraising event was called “Coaches vs. Cancer” and centered around the university’s basketball team. The money it generated was given to the American Cancer Society.

Last year, organizers changed the name to “Lobos vs. Cancer” and switched the focus to benefit New Mexicans who are fighting cancer. The more than $80,000 raised at the event was donated to the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, an institution that serves the entire state and the only comprehensive cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute in New Mexico.

This year’s fundraiser, the Lobos vs. Cancer Gala, will be held Saturday, May 20, at the Sandia Resort and Casino. The black-tie gathering, with the theme “Sequins, Suits & Sneakers,” will feature silent and live auctions and a steak and lobster dinner.

UNM mascot Lobo Louie will be on hand for photo opportunities and the new UNM Lobos basketball coach Paul Weir will be there to mix and mingle.

During the dinner, center director and CEO Cheryl Willman, MD, will talk about the work of the center and guests will hear stories about the experiences of individual patients.

The live auction will give guests a chance to bid on prizes such as a weeklong vacation at a private villa in Jamaica, a vacation in Belize, a fly-fishing excursion on the San Juan River, tickets and airfare to an Arizona Cardinals game in Phoenix and much more. Tickets are $150 each or $1,500 for a table that seats 10.

Funds raised at the gala will benefit two areas. A portion will go toward research projects to help them snag additional grants. Money will also support individual patients and their families, especially those who travel from great distances and need help with food, lodging and transportation costs.

“We’re trying to help on every point on that spectrum,” said Season Elliott, head of the organizing committee.

Elliott took over as chair of the organizing committee last summer. Marjori Krebs, the wife of UNM Athletics Director Paul Krebs, led the organizing team for nine years.

“If there is one cause I am extremely passionate about, it’s this fight,” said Elliott, who has a history of cancer in her family. She said last year’s event drew 430 guests. She is expecting 600 to attend the 2017 gala.

“This year we’re trying to change the scope to make it an entire university and community fundraiser because it affects everybody,” said Elliott.