Minium: ODU Will Honor Jeff Jones With a Prostate Cancer Awareness Night When Monarchs Host Northern Iowa
By ODU Athletics
By Harry Minium
Old Dominion has long promoted the awareness of breast cancer, honoring breast cancer survivors and donating proceeds to cancer research from its annual Hoops for the Cure women’s basketball game.
But since men's basketball coach Jeff Jones recently announced that his prostate cancer is still active, the University has also begun a major effort to promote awareness of that deadly disease.
ODU has designated its Nov. 23 home basketball against Northern Iowa as Prostate Cancer Awareness Night. And instead of a sea of pink, there will be a sea of Columbia blue in the stands.
Light blue, the color that ODU athletic teams wore for many years, is also the color associated with prostate cancer awareness. The team will wear throwback uniforms, and fans are also being asked to wear light blue color shirts.
Not all details have been set, but there will be a video tribute to Jones, in which the 17 other ODU head coaches, athletic director Wood Selig, Jones and yours truly all participate.
The video likely will make its debut when ODU’s football team hosts Middle Tennessee for homecoming on Oct. 27.
The message? If you’re a man who's 50 years old, it's time to get tested. It’s simple to do. Go to your doctor and get a blood test that measures something called your PSA level, and if its elevated, you may need more tests to see if you have cancer.
The final words of every coach: “I’m with you Jeff.”
Danielle Jones, wife of ODU basketball coach Jeff Jones, has raised nearly $70,000 for cancer patients.
And they truly are. Coaches at some schools can be a jealous bunch, but there is true empathy for Jones in all corners at ODU.
I got tested when I was in my 50’s, and then had a biopsy that tested positive. In my case, the prostate cancer is a slow-growing disease, so I finally received hormone treatments and radiation in late 2017 and earlier this year.
I’m still suffering side effects, but so far, so good. My PSA levels are reasonably good.
Jeff, unfortunately, only got tested at age 55, five years later than medical professionals suggest, because it was required for him to get a life insurance policy. When the test turned out positive, he got a biopsy, which indicated that he needed surgery.
That was followed up by radiation, and in spite of all that treatment, he revealed earlier this year that his prostate cancer has spread, and that it's a particularly aggressive form of cancer.
I wrote a column on his fight against prostate cancer, which is incurable but so far has being successfully controlled with medicine.
A major part of the story was a fundraiser begun by Jeff and Danielle, his wife, to help Hope Lodge, which provides housing to cancer patients who must travel to receive treatment.
Danielle kicked off the drive with a goal of $25,000. The goal set by wives of Coaches vs. Cancer nationally for the fundraisers is $100,000. Keep that number in mind as this story continues.
Danielle was the first donor, stroking a check for $13,320, the amount Jones had to pay when his insurance company refused to pay for a test he needed.
Gigi and Shep Miller donated $13,200 to the Jones fundraiser.
Within 48 hours, and after a flood of media coverage, she had exceeded the goal. She then reset the goal at $35,000 and it was quickly eclipsed.
Recently, Shep and Gigi Miller donated $13,320, to match the amount Danielle donated. Shep Miller, a mover and shaker in Norfolk politics, a big ODU booster and a fifth generation Larchmont resident, is close with Jones.
But then came David and Julie Holland, whom the Jones’ didn’t know, who donated $10,000. As of Saturday night, Danielle's fund had raised nearly $67,000. The new goal is $100,000, the number more than a dozen coaches' wives had hoped to reach as a group.
“The response has been overwhelming and inspiring,” Danielle said. "I'm just in awe of all of the kindness people have shown us. Old Dominion is truly a wonderful school."
Miller has lost five family members to cancer, including his sister, Kit, who was 57 when she died in 2012.
Holland, a retired Southern Oil executive, is an ODU basketball fan and a prostate cancer survivor. “Jeff and Danielle have no idea who I am,” he said. “I’m just a fan. But I’ve been fortunate in life and wanted to do what I could to help.”
Julie and David Holland donated $10,000.
He understands how prevalent prostate cancer is among men.
“I was playing tennis one day and three of the eight guys on the court had been treated for prostate cancer,” he said. “And I hadn’t been diagnosed yet.”
Some proceeds from the game will be donated to the fund, said Jason Chandler, ODU’s associate athletic director for strategic marketing and revenue generation, who added that he’s looking for sponsors to help promote the game by providing fans with free T-shirts. He has other plans in the works that he will announce when they are finalized.
As soon as he learned that Jones’ cancer has spread, Jason went to Selig and took on the task of putting together the Prostate Cancer Awareness night.
“It’s something that everyone got behind right away for all the right reasons,” Chandler said.
He said the game is also being staged “to shine a light on what Danielle has been doing.”
If you know Jeff Jones, and I covered him off and on since he was coaching basketball at Virginia, you know he abhors attention and anything that might distract his team from basketball. He said yes to this event as long as he wasn’t the focal point.
Bad news, Jeff. You will be the focal point whether you like it or not. Can you imagine the standing ovation he’ll get after the video runs?
“I’m grateful, I’m humbled, and so appreciative of the support of the athletic department and the school,” he said, adding about the attention, “if it can do some good, I just need to suck it up."
He notes that a slight majority of ODU basketball fans are men, and that many are middle aged. “I just hope we can get the message across to them that when you get to a certain age, you need to get tested,” he said.
He said he’s grateful for the gifts from Miller and Holland.
“It’s fantastic, it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s humbling and heartwarming that when they read your article that they decided to be a part of it. Shep and Gigi are close friends, and when we got a text from Shep saying what he was going to do, I was so moved.
“The money they donated will be well spent. They might be doing it because of the ODU connection.
“But they are investing in the lives of people who are going through a very tough time.”
Something Jones knows first-hand.
Contact Minium: firstname.lastname@example.org
To donate to the Hope Lodge Cancer fund, click here.