For the fourth time in four years, there wasn’t an empty seat remaining at Notre Dame’s Football 101 fundraiser. Six hundred women showed up earlier this week for a crash course on football basics and to raise money for breast cancer awareness.
Paqui Kelly greets fans at her annual breast cancer awareness event inside Notre Dame Stadium this week.
The sea of green and pink jerseys temporarily took over Notre Dame Stadium Tuesday evening at the event put on each June by the Kelly Cares Foundation and Paqui Kelly, wife of Irish head coach Brian Kelly. Attendees met the Irish coaching staff and players before heading over to the team’s practice facilities for their lessons on football basics. Kelly has hosted the event each of her four years in South Bend.
“It’s good to be back,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of repeat fourth-year seniors, if you will, that are excited to be here and we’re thrilled that the enthusiasm is still there. There are a lot of people coming out bringing friends that have gone through [cancer]. It’s kind of a healing and a celebration for them as well.”
This year’s event was a celebration for Kelly as well. She battled breast cancer twice, five and 10 years ago. This is the longest she has gone without any problems since her original diagnosis in 2003.
“I didn’t get to celebrate my first five [year-anniversary] because I was going through that second diagnosis. Every day is really a gift. I’m so pleased to be here. I’m glad I’m getting old is what I say. I look forward to everyday,” she said.
Along with a handful of technical drills and chalk talk, the women also watch a football fashion show courtesy of some of the Irish players. Several players and the majority of the team’s coaching staff volunteer to help at the event, although Kelly himself wasn’t able to attend for the second year in a row.
The coach was recovering from back surgery last year. This week he was in New England trading notes with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in what was likely an equally high-minded exchange of Xs and Os knowledge as the Football 101 sessions.
Paqui Kelly said as the group of repeat campers continues to grow the foundation might have to consider offering some 200 level courses in the future. Kelly Cares also hosts a trio of golf events during the summer to help raise money. The first event was this past Wednesday in Bridgman, Mich.
The Football 101 event brings in more than $100,000 for cancer research and awareness efforts each year. Kelly said she wanted to keep the crowd at its current size despite the lines waiting outside the stadium Tuesday and the four consecutive sell-outs.
“I know some other places do it differently and they have thousands of people,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t want to not include anybody, we just want to really make sure that we have that intimacy too. With 600 we still have that intimacy.”
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