CLEMSON UNIVERSITY — Many inspiring and powerful women from South Carolina went to Clemson University on Saturday to fight breast cancer and talk football.
Clemson graduates Gov. Nikki Haley and newly crowned Miss South Carolina Ali Rogers were only two of the hundreds of Clemson fans who hooted and hollered from the stands as the university’s football players danced shirtless inside Littlejohn Coliseum.
But the most stirring sight of the day may have been Doris Scott, a 94-year-old who has survived breast cancer for 45 years.
“I am absolutely a Clemson fan,” Scott said. “I bleed orange.”
She walked down the stairs carefully at Littlejohn Coliesum as she joined about 30 other breast cancer survivors on the basketball court floor at the Dabo Swinney Ladies Clinic. Hundreds of supporters, decked out in bright oranges and deep purples, stood to applaud Scott and her fellow survivors.
Scott stood next to the governor as head football coach Dabo Swinney presented checks for $26,250, half for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and half for breast cancer work done through AnMed Health. Additional money was raised from silent and live auctions.
Scott lives in Williamston, N.C., and hopes to make it to a handful of football games in the coming season. She’s been a Clemson fan since her son attended the university and graduated in 1966, even longer than she has been winning her battle against breast cancer.
One out of eight women will get breast cancer, said Jane Robelot, former CBS This Morning co-anchor and a host of 2012 Ladies Clinic.
That means about 100 of the more than 800 attendees Saturday could face fights of their own.
Many of the clinic participants have supported family members or friends or have lost loved ones to breast cancer.
The woman and girls went through sessions with football coaches, learned how to prevent and fight breast cancer, visited the locker room and weight room for the football team and later ran down “The Hill” at Clemson Memorial Stadium.
Celeste Wilder giggled with excitement when an Elvis performer crooned to her while singing “Suspicious Minds.”
Wilder has breast cancer in her family and has been a Clemson fan at least since her husband graduated from the school in 1965.
She attended Saturday with her daughter, granddaughter and niece and they had a front-row seat at Littlejohn Coliseum. It was the first Ladies Clinic for Wilder and most of her family.
Meeting the coaches, especially the head coach, and players was the biggest thrill for Wilder.
Swinney and his wife, Kathleen, have been full-throated combatants against breast cancer since Kathleen Swinney underwent treatment for breast cancer years ago.
“We faced a decision in 2005,” Dabo Swinney said. “We had three boys and (Kathleen) was 30-something. We made a decision because of research, to do something about it.”
He said he hoped breast cancer research would someday be as understood and treatable as heart problems. He pointed to medical advances in heart surgeries, stints and bypasses as a source of hope.
“Think of all the things, if we could know, that we could do something about it,” Swinney said.
The Swinneys sat at a table on the basketball court, with the governor in between them as the trio talked breast cancer, busy schedules and their love of Clemson football.
Haley said, “Breast cancer survivors and football players are fighters.”
She said she agreed to visit her alma mater for the annual clinic because Dabo “promised me we’d win this year.”
Swinney nodded his head.
“I’m a man of my word, and I look forward to keeping my promise,” he told the women as they erupted in applause that rang up to the rafters.
But it paled when compared with the applause Scott and the rest of the breast cancer survivors received in an extended standing ovation when Swinney invited them down to the floor to take a bow.
Haley said, “It was so great to see the breast cancer survivors come down from the stands and stand on the court. It’s just amazing how many people are affected by breast cancer.”
Kathy Cribb said she enjoyed the inside peek into Clemson football, and making her husband jealous.
Her husband is a high-school offensive line coach. He was stuck walking around Clemson for the day while his wife and step-daughter, Jennifer Crittenden, got to meet coaches and players and get the latest scoop on the season, which will begin Sept. 1 against the Auburn Tigers.
“I love that I know what all of the (Clemson) coaches were talking about before they finished,” Crittenden said.
The high school coaches will get a tour of the football facilities later, but until then Kathy Cribb will rub it in her husband’s face.
“A lot,” she said.