The final weekend of home games for the Brandon University Bobcats women’s basketball team has extra meaning for Aleah Bridges, and it has nothing to do with honouring fifth-year players or that the team has its most wins since joining Canada West.
What’s motivating Bridges is the Bobcats’ Shoot for the Cure weekend to raise money for breast cancer research, which hits really close to home for the 5-foot-3 point guard. Bridges’ mother, Anita, was diagnosed with breast cancer just before Bridges went into exam week in December.
Seeing the disease hit her family has inspired Bridges to do everything she can to pay tribute to her mom and those dealing with breast cancer when the Lethbridge Pronghorns (5-13) come to the Healthy Living Centre today at 6 p.m., and tomorrow at 5 p.m., to take on the Bobcats (5-13) to close out BU’s home Canada West schedule.
"It’s actually really, really, really big," said Bridges, a third-year player from Berkeley, Calif. "Before it was pretty big, but now it’s personal because it’s my mom. I’m big on it."
Bridges, whose daughter Ge’Niah lives with her mom in California while she’s getting her education in Brandon, was originally supposed to be kept out of the loop after her mom was diagnosed so she could focus on her exams. However, her brother, Charles, was having a tough time after learning about his mother and called Bridges in Brandon.
She went back home to California during the Christmas break to see her daughter and spend time with her mom and her family, and it turned out to be a pretty tough trip.
"I was excited to see her (Anita)," Bridges said. "At first I was scared to see her because I didn’t know what to expect and how her mood would be and how sick she would be, but everything was normal, my mom was running around like normal. She never looked sad and she never cried in front of me because she never wanted my daughter to see what was going on or what was wrong.
"My daughter knew something was going on because there was a lot of family over all the time and I would break down and cry. She understood that grandma was sick, but my mom was always smiling and always happy. She hasn’t changed at all."
Luckily, the cancerous tumour was found in its early stages, before it could spread. On Jan. 13, Anita went in for surgery and had her tumour removed. She’s currently cancer-free and is receiving radiation treatments and chemotherapy.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, are raising funds by having rookies Keegan Robinson of Hamiota and Kinsley Ransom of Boissevain, receiving pledges for every free throw they make during halftime of the men’s games on Friday and Saturday. Anyone wishing to make a pledge or a donation can contact the Bobcats at the university.
The team will also be sporting pink shoelaces.
Although she won’t be shooting, Bridges will do everything she can to help Robinson and Ransom make as many baskets as possible by rebounding. She will honour her mom before each game as well.
"I brought my mom’s favourite shirt back and I might wear it under my warmup (suit) to have it on," she said. "Other than that, I just want to play really well for her and hopefully we raise a lot of money because it means so much to me if they can find a cure for this. I’m really, really blessed that my mom is cancer-free right now, and I hope it doesn’t come back. I hope for the best for everybody else who has it."
The BU men’s team (5-13) will host the Pronghorns (12-6) today at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 7 p.m.
CAT SCRAPS: Tonight is raincheck night for the Bobcats. Fans can turn in any unused tickets tonight for a free ducat to the game … Brandon’s fifth-year players will be honoured between the men’s and women’s games on Saturday.