Children's Emergency Department is now located in Children's Tower: 1001 E. Marshall Street.

Learn more
View alerts close
Unleashing their creativity: CHoR patients and VCU basketball players paint sneakers for a cause
January 19, 2024
CHoR patients and VCU basketball players on the VCU practice court

    CHoR patients and VCU basketball players paint sneakers for a cause

    During any given VCU men’s basketball game, you’re likely to find our CHoR patients cheering for their favorite team. This week, the players had an opportunity to turn the tables and support their young fans off the court as part of the American Cancer Society’s national “Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Week.”

    Richmond’s role in the national Coaches vs. Cancer initiative

    Patients receiving cancer treatment at CHoR, along with their families, joined VCU basketball players at the VCU Basketball Development Center after practice Thursday evening to paint sneakers. The VCU coaches will wear the shoes at the game on Tuesday, January 23. Afterward, they’ll be auctioned off to raise money for our CHoR pediatric cancer program and VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    Basketball coaches across the country will wear their most eye-catching sneakers for cancer awareness next week, though not all will be as passionately painted as these.

    VCU basketball's Zeb Jackson paints sneakers next to CHoR patient Thomas Carley“It’s an awesome opportunity for the kids and us to spend quality time together,” said Zeb Jackson, senior guard and team captain. “It’s good for us to use our influence for something positive. It’s good for the kids to be creative and present in the moment and not have to worry about anything else. The kids have been free-stylin’ and they’re looking really good.”

    The evening started with nine pairs of bright white sneakers and ended with designs ranging from a baby shower theme in pastel pink and blue, to a black and red Spiderman pair. Alexis Shockley, manager of Arts in Healthcare, helped ensure the kids and players had the right supplies for the special event. Shockley will help patients who are hospitalized for cancer treatment paint additional pairs of shoes for the coaches, rounding out nearly a dozen unique creations.

    “It’s hard to tell whose shoes are whose, so it’ll be cool to see them on their feet,” added Zeb, looking forward to his coaches wearing the painted pairs on Tuesday night.

    The kids and families are invited to watch their new friends play and see the finished products on the court too.

    A welcome distraction from the daily routine of childhood cancer

    CHoR patient Omari Briggs paints sneakers with VCU player Kuany KuanyOmari Briggs, a 14-year-old high school freshman, was excited about the event and spent much of the evening painting with freshman forward Kuany Kuany. Briggs, a baseball and basketball player himself, is in the maintenance phase of his treatment for T-cell lymphoma, with two more treatment stages to go and hopes of being finished later this year.

    “He’s been asking me all week, ‘What day are we going? What day are we going?’ When he first got diagnosed, we were in the house a lot. It’s really nice to get out of the house and do things like this,” said Omari’s dad, Omar, who played basketball at Virginia Union and is friends with one of the VCU coaches. “This year he’s sitting out from his sports, but hopefully next year he can get back to it. As far as the sneakers go, that’s right down his alley.”

    Omar acknowledged the strength required of his son and all children fighting cancer. Dr. India Sisler, division chief and clinical director of our Division of Hematology and Oncology, agreed.

    “Our patients who are undergoing treatment for childhood cancer have to endure a lot. They miss a lot of normal kid things like school and participating in basketball, so when they get to do something like this that’s geared toward their interests – some of these kids are really interested in basketball, some are really interested in fashion or big into shoes – it really lifts their spirits. It’s so important for these kids who are missing out on so much else in their lives,” said Dr. Sisler.

    Thomas Carley, 13-year-old former Anthem LemonAid ambassador, worked meticulously on a checkerboard pattern.

    “I thought it would be fun to not just meet the players, but design and hang out,” he said.

    A mutually beneficial endeavor to defeat cancer

    Finished sneakers painted by CHoR patients and VCU basketball players“Cancer is something that has impacted all families. You may look and think the players and coaches are doing something for the kids, but they’re doing something for us. It’s certainly a reminder that life’s not easy,” said coach Ryan Odom. “If we can be a small part of that child’s day where they’re smiling and not thinking about the hard things they’re going through, then mission accomplished. It makes you feel better when you’re making someone else smile like that. It’s a good lesson for the long term.”

    Coach Odom also underscored the importance of being part of this national effort to raise money for care and research for people facing cancer today and in the years to come.

    “We couldn’t be more grateful for this partnership with VCU Athletics. They really speak to us – nurturing the champion inside of our children and families. They’re an incredible inspiration to this community,” said Elias Neujahr, CHoR president.

    Check the CHoR social media channels for details on the sneaker auction coming soon.

    Learn about the nationally recognized cancer care at CHoR.

    Subscribe to our blog

    Sign Up