Ann Meyers Drysdale and Mercury Continue Fundraising Efforts

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October is National Breast Health Awareness month. In an effort to raise money and awareness of the disease, the Phoenix Mercury's Tangela Smith will make her runway debut at the Fashionably Pink Celebrity Fashion Show, set to open Phoenix Fashion Week’s sixth annual event on Thursday to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Her involvement in the fundraiser is just one more way in which the Phoenix Mercury continues to play an active part in the community. Mercury President and General Manager Ann Meyers Drysdale sits with to discuss the team's continued involvement in the community and the Mercury's fund-raising efforts to support various charities throughout the country. I know this isn’t the first time the Mercury has been involved with raising money for cancer awareness. Can you tell me a little bit about the event the Mercury held back in August?

Ann Meyers Drysdale: The one in August was Rock the Pink. We put it in conjunction with our game and all of the WNBA had days where they wore their pink uniforms to help promote breast cancer awareness and we were able to do a live auction. The players came out afterwards and we had fans stay and we raised almost $40,000. A lot of it goes to our charities but it also goes Susan G. Komen, we gave $20,000 [on Tuesday] as a donation and certainly we have a lot of players not only on our team but also within the league that have had mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers that have all been affected. A lot of our season ticket holders. We have a lot of survivors that we will honor during our games and throughout the season. When you look out over a packed arena you have to think, “Wow. A lot of these people are affected by this disease.”

Ann Meyers Drysdale plays an active role in the Phoenix community
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AMD: You’re absolutely right. And it’s not just women. Certainly families of children with young girls and young boys and husbands and mothers and sons, so that support system transcends both genders and all ages. We think the WNBA really gives a high profile to breast cancer awareness and, in doing the Rock the Pink, we also donated money to the Kay Yow Foundation. Certainly Kay Yow is so important in women’s basketball in the world of basketball. Like Jimmy Valvano, both were at NC State, and Kay fought cancer for so many years and a lot of us in the game would compare her to Coach [John] Wooden. The kind of man that he was off the court, Kay is that kind of woman off the court on the women’s side. There’s been some high profile people that we know, and it’s important on the women’s side too, to keep that out there. And certainly we see men’s sports promotes the pink with their shoes and parts of their uniforms and so forth, but the women come out in the all-pink uniforms and they do that in the colleges too. I think that awareness and seeing that lets people around the world know what’s going on. Have you been directly affected by the disease through relatives or other family members?

AMD: I have not. But I’ve seen friends that have fought breast cancer and have fought cancer which is huge. To have those friends in my life and to know the strength that they’ve fought. Some have lost the battle, some have won the battle. Like I said, it touches everybody. I look at our season-ticket holders and I look at the survivors that have come to our game and I’m actually in awe of their strength and their outlook in life is so positive. To be around people like that, it just really gives you hope and rejuvenates your faith in people and the fight to do things. How would you describe the players’ motivation to get involved in something like this?

AMD: A lot of them have been touched by it. I think because a lot of these gals have been involved in sports, whether it’s basketball or softball or whatever sport it is, I think what helps is colleges are so aware of it and they get their teams involved. And I think when you have a young woman that’s exposed to it through their university of through their sport and now even through the WNBA, it helps to be with an organization that supports something like that and it does give them kind of a cause to look into not only their own life, but people around them. You really see somebody like Tangela Smith get involved in doing the fashion show [Thursday] night. I know that Temeka Johnson lost her grandmother to cancer and she has her own foundation, the HOPE Foundation. So there’s players that really take it to heart and try to give back to their communities. Talk a little bit about Tangela’s role in Thursday's the fashion show.

AMD: She’s excited about it. She’s proud to be a part of it. It's somebody that’s been in the league that long and of course to step up and give back and do things in the community and letting people have that awareness really is important.