It's easy to see how much the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation means to the Rose family. Cheryl Rose in particular got emotional at one point while describing the generosity of people in the community and the efforts they have made to brighten the holiday season for families with children suffering from cancer.
"We've had some very wonderful people step forward and help us out this year, and these families are gonna have a great Christmas," said Cheryl. "It's gonna be exciting."
As part of the Christmas party, the basketball team will hand out toys to children affected by cancer. Cheryl said one of the greatest things about the annual event is watching the players interact with the children.
The toys being handed out were purchased by coaches and their wives during an extensive shopping trip to Walmart. The money used to buy the toys was donated by the community.
"We bought a lot of toys," said Cheryl. "There were probably 50 carts filled with toys. It was the greatest time. Coach Rose loves it."
At last count when Cheryl spoke to the media on Tuesday, there were 98 families set to participate in the Christmas party. When the event first started 12 years ago, there were only 15 families present. While it is a positive that the team and the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation can benefit so many people, it is also a bittersweet implication of just how widespread cancer is and how many families it affects.
"It's one of those parties where we don't like it to grow," said Cheryl. "We would like to not have to have a party. But the good news for us is that we're getting the word out, we're reaching these families, and those families who are affected by [cancer] are actually able to come and have just a couple of nights where they don't have to worry about it."
Coach Rose and his wife certainly weren't strangers to cancer when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year. While at Dixie State he became the first coach in Utah to participate in the American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer campaign, and in addition to their work with cancer patients for a long time now, he has also served as honorary chairman for the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation for the past several years.
But as can be expected, Rose's recent bout with cancer has given him a new perspective on what these families are going through.
"I think that I understand some things now that I didn't really understand before," said Coach Rose, "but I think the most important thing is just how much strength you can receive knowing that other people are pulling for you and they're trying to help you."
Like her husband, Cheryl came away with a newfound perspective following her husband's ordeal and subsequent recovery.
"We knew there was something different about these families but we really could never quite put our finger on it," said Cheryl. "But they're the kind of people you just love to be around, and every year we would leave we would just go away feeling like we were better people for being around them. And what I think we finally realized is that these families understand how precious every minute is with their loved ones, with their children, and we had a little taste of that.
"I mean, I think for us it put priorities in place really quickly. Things that we thought were really important didn't matter anymore, and what mattered is our relationship with our family and our friends and the people we loved, and that's what these people understand. So I think we have that connection with them, we understand how priceless the time is that we have together, and we try to not take advantage of that anymore. We try and make every minute that we have together count."
Cheryl said her husband is now a different man. He is kinder, gentler and sees life differently. In fact, in the past after his team would lose a game, she said their family would generally let him have his space and wouldn't talk to him until he talked to them first. However, he now takes everything more in stride. After the Cougars lost to Utah State this season, Coach Rose let her know it was just a game, and that they didn't play very well but that they would do better next time. Above all, she said he is excited about the second chance at life he's received and wants to make the most of it. He wants to make a difference in peoples' lives, and is in a position to do so.
While laughingly admitting that it sounds cheesy, Cheryl emphasized that life is good and that the Roses are happy and making the most of each day.
So, with his new lease on life, Coach Rose will join with his family, his coaching staff and his players and do what they've tried to do every year: brighten families' lives and help them cope with the serious trials they face.
"I think that our biggest focus now is you want to make these children happy, at least for a short period of time during a really difficult time," said Coach Rose. "But I think what's really important is for the children, the family, to understand there's people who care, because when you're fighting such an uncertain disease you don't know how it's gonna turn out. The support from other people, it gives you strength. I know that firsthand, and that's what we want to do is just let these people know that there's hundreds of people in this valley who support them in this struggle that they have."
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