FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Northern Coloradans who have battled cancer were honored Saturday at the Colorado State University women’s basketball game against Wyoming. Student athletes played the “Border War” wearing their regular jersey numbers, but the names on the back were swapped out with those of people who have gone through fighting cancer.
In partnership with UCHealth of Northern Colorado, CSU’s two basketball teams chose to support individuals by dedicating their games to cancer warriors.
While each player wore the name of a different community member, each warmed up with the last name “Brohard” on their t-shirts.
Deb Brohard passed away in late November of 2020 following her second battle with breast cancer. Her husband, Mike, works for Colorado State University’s athletics department.
“It was kind of rough on her. She battled through it as best she could, and she always remained positive,” Brohard said. “She had a really infectious laugh. She had a great smile that would light up a room.”
Mike said he was moved to see both basketball teams sporting his wife’s name on their backs. Prior to her death Deb was notified of the university’s plan to have at least one athlete wear her last name. However, Mike and his daughters were not aware of the warmups sporting the name as well.
“She was excited to take part in this because it was all about support,” Brohard told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “It made her cry to know that for even one game those players were willing to give up their name on the back of their jersey and represent someone other than themselves in a cause that was bigger than them.”
Brohard said he was moved to tears when he saw the gesture by the teams, much like cancer warriors who saw their names on the backs of others. Brohard said he retreated to his office for ten minutes just to cry after first seeing the name on the players’ backs.
“It’s just that somebody telling you, ‘You are strong, you got this, you can do this,’” Brohard said.
“It was a big honor to play with somebody else’s name,” said Lore Devos, a senior on the women’s basketball team.
Devos was the athlete selected to wear Brohard’s name on her jersey during the game as well.
“She lost her fight, so it was a big honor to wear her name on the back of my jersey,” Devos said.
She said she dedicated her winning performance to Deb, and knew the her teammates did the same for the individuals they supported. Devos said the name on the front of the jersey’s typically is prioritized first, CSU. Then, it is usually a way to honor your family by having your last name on the back.
“Normally it is our name, so a lot of pride for our families,” Devos said.
However, she believed swapping her last name for another was a grand way to show support for those who have, and continue to, battle cancer.
“The name on the front is also a lot of pride. But to get the chance to play with the name of somebody else is really special and a lifetime opportunity,” Devos said.
“When our patients and families are given an opportunity like this – to attend a game or to be honored with their name on the back of one of the jerseys – they are truly delighted. It’s amazing. A lot are humble and say they don’t deserve this,” said JoAnn Lovins, UCHealth’s Senior Director of Oncology in Northern Colorado. “It always turns out to be such a special time for our patients and our families. Whether they have been a fan of CSU forever or fans of another team or never been into that the sport at all, all of a sudden it lights them up. It’s their community acknowledging that they have gone through a challenging time and honoring them.”