CLEMSON – Just as many others look up to Kathleen Swinney, the wife of Clemson’s head football coach draws on her own inspirations.
2013 Dabo Swinney Ladies Clinic
Saturday, July 20
Check-in starts at Littlejohn Coliseum at 7:15 a.m.
Program begins at 9 a.m.; concludes in Death Valley at 4 p.m.
Meet and Greet photo with Dabo Swinney for first 250 through the gate
Coaches’ instruction clinics, interaction with coach families, facility tours
Lunch provided by Wendy’s
Fashion show, silent auctions, special guest speakers
Registration fee is $60; $15 is matched by Dabo’s All In Foundation, with proceeds going to breast cancer research and prevention
Her older sister, Lisa, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, and while she won her fight, she continues to kick complications a decade later.
Robin Roberts, former ESPN reporter and current Good Morning America anchor, beat both breast cancer in 2007 and myelodysplastic syndrome – a blood cell disease caused by bone marrow failure – earlier this winter.
It was the famous broadcaster’s decision to publicize her quests back to health rather than hide them in privacy. When accepting an ESPY Courage award Wednesday, Roberts’ powerful tagline was “make your mess your message.”
In her own way, Swinney does that every summer with the help of her husband’s football program and foundation.
Clemson’s 2013 Dabo Swinney Ladies Clinic powers on since its roots from the Tommy Bowden days, and in the Swinneys’ fifth year leading the charge, they expect a record 1,200 women on campus for Saturday’s daylong festivities.
No men allowed: the event teases red-blooded males with the mantra “what happens at Ladies Clinic stays at Ladies Clinic.”
“It covers a broad spectrum of ladies,” Kathleen Swinney said. “There’s something for everyone, whether she’s a football fanatic, she’s a shopper and just wants to have a good time, or she’s interested in breast health.”
Swinney’s all three. To the latter point, very much so.
After Lisa began her battle in her 30s, Kathleen and little sister Ann were tested for the BRCA gene, the same gene Angelina Jolie has in her body that increases the odds of breast cancer.
They tested positive, and responded by getting a double mastectomy to stunt the gene’s effects. Kathleen’s was in 2005 – during football season, when Dabo was a wide receivers coach.
Lisa knocked her breast cancer into remission, but last year cancer spread to her brain and lungs. She has recovered well from brain surgery at Duke University in 2012, but she’s had two lung surgeries this year and caught pneumonia two weeks ago.
“It’s affected us in an extremely personal way. It’s been an extremely difficult year for our family,” Kathleen said. “It’s all because of this gene.”
Defensive end Corey Crawford lost his mother to breast cancer last year, and offensive lineman Eric MacLain’s mom battles it now.
“Most everybody sitting in there either knows a family member or friend who’s been affected by breast cancer,” Swinney said. “It affects everybody. It’s just become an epidemic. So most people are passionate about coming, and they know their money’s going toward a good cause.”
Clemson University raised more than $20,000 last year for breast cancer research and prevention through Dabo’s All In Team Foundation. Other schools like South Carolina, Ohio State, Kentucky and Oregon also host women’s clinics.
“If it wasn’t for all this research into breast cancer health, I would more than likely have breast cancer right now,” Swinney said. “Because I was diagnosed with the gene, I was able to do something about it.”
All the Tigers’ coaches, and many players, join in Saturday for presentations, photographs, autographs, tours and entertainment. The day is supplemented by lunch, a fashion show, silent auctions, special guest speakers and the recognition of breast cancer survivors.
“It is every man’s desire to interact with the players at that level, and you get to know them on a personal level,” Charleston County Clemson Club president Heather Byrd. “You go through a day in the life of a player. It’s over-the-top fantastic.”
A mother of three boys, Kathleen Swinney relishes the day each year.
“I do live with all these men, so it’s super fun to have that day with the ladies, knowing what the money’s going toward. And showcasing Clemson,” she said.
“It’s just a really special day.”