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SMC volleyball rallies for cure

Rebecca O'Neil | Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Saint Mary’s volleyball team’s annual “Dig for the Cure” has evolved into something more aggressive – and more personal. The team will host the event, now titled “Crush for the Cure,” at 7 p.m. tonight in the Angela Athletic Facility to raise money for a Saint Mary’s alumna and lymphoma patient, Anne Blair Payne.

Payne graduated in 2002 as an education major and was a member of Saint Mary’s basketball team for all four years of her time at Saint Mary’s.

“She had just come back for a 10-year reunion this past June,” Julie Schroeder-Biek, Saint Mary’s athletic director said. “The next week I got a call that she went for a run and had severe chest pain.”

Shortly thereafter, doctors found a large tumor in Payne’s lung they believed to be lung cancer. They said there was little they could do. Even so, Payne’s brother told her she would “crush it” and triumph. After treatment, the tumor shrunk and the doctors discovered that the cancer was not in her lungs, but located in her lymph nodes.

“It was a relief, relatively,” Schroeder-Biek said.

None of the athletes present at Saint Mary’s during Payne’s career are still enrolled at Saint Mary’s, but Schroeder-Biek said she feels as if she’s watched the “Once a Belle, always a Belle” motto come to life.

“The teammates she had then are here for her now,” Schroeder-Biek said. “They hold her hand during [chemotherapy] treatments. When she shaved her head, they were right there with her. They set up a donation website on GoFundMe so that she can pay for the best treatment and take that worry off her mind.”

Payne maintains a regular workout routine and uses running as a metaphor for her life in her blog. In an entry from week 15, day 71, Payne recalls that “as [she] passed hikers on the trail, [she] got a surge of energy and unknowingly picked up the pace. It wasn’t something [she] planned on, it just happened. Similar to now and how all the encouragement and support seems to carry [her] along with [her] even realizing it.”

Payne updates the online journal daily, to document her journey with cancer. She ends each entry with an inspirational “Lesson of the Day.

“She’s handling everything with grace and dignity and embodies true athletic spirit -battling,” Schroeder-Biek said. “She’s positive. She finds something to get her through the day and in doing that, she inspires others. I’m proud of our community for being there for her.”

Toni Kuschel, the Belles’ volleyball coach, says that this year the team “wanted to do something that hit close to home and benefited someone we knew.”

“Once the issue was brought to my attention, I talked to the girls about it and we decided we wanted to sponsor her in her courageous battle,” Kuschel said. “Not only are we expecting our fans and other teams, but the support is also coming from Anne’s past teammates and other alumni.”

The “Crush for the Cure” will feature t-shirts, bracelets, desserts from Sodexo and other concessions. All of the profit will be donated to Payne’s fundraiser.

After Schroeder-Biek sent Payne an email about the “Crush It” bracelets she had just ordered, she heard the phone ring.

“No caller ID or anything and I pick it up and say hello and no one responds,” Schroeder-Biek said. “It took me a while to realize it was Anne on the line, crying.”

People are allowed and encouraged to either donate a fixed amount or to pledge a certain amount per Saint Mary’s kill during the game against Albion, Kuschel said

“These are the kind of lifts people need,” Schroeder-Biek. “Raising money matters but support like this is what carries people further than any of us realize.”

Payne’s fundraiser is $636 short of its $15,000 goal.

For more information, visit http://www.gofundme.com/rwb70#description and htttp://www.facebook.com/EveryoneLovesAnne.