When Paqui Kelly first diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2003, her children were 6, 3, and 2 years old, respectively. It was the first of two cancer diagnoses for the Kelly family -- the second occurrence in 2007.
Forced inside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex Tuesday night, the event sees the Irish assistant coaches and players break down elements of the game for the ladies and gives participants the chance to participate in drills. Paqui was delighted to see the event grow.
"The first couple of years it was a learning curve for everybody because they had never really had an event like this here," Paqui said. "But by the third or fourth year the players got it, the coaches were on board and they tried to get the women involved because it is a fun activity."
Traditionally the event has been held in the football stadium, but the decision was taken to move it indoors due to the murky sky that hung over campus all day yesterday. Despite the move, Irish head coach Brian Kelly was happy to get the chance to thank all the people who made the event possible.
"The weather was dodgy all day and the last thing we wanted was to be outside and to have it open up on us," Kelly said. "This event has been supported so well by our community. Each and every year 500-600 people have come out and it has raised over $100,000 each year. It says so much about this entire area. I just want to get around and thank people."
Besides raising money for breast cancer research and educational and community projects, Paqui also thinks the event serves a practical purpose for the women involved. She remembers countless women coming up to her and not knowing much about what their sons were doing on the field so she thinks the event can give them a helpful grounding in the game of football.
"When this event started out a lot of moms would say ‘I just make food for my son's team' and they didn't even know what position their kids were playing in high school," Paqui said. "Getting them involved on the sidelines has been great and this event has really turned the corner in the last few years."
Before the drills, there is a reception where the women get a chance to meet the coaches and some of the players and Coach Kelly made a point of praising the commitment of his assistants for allowing the event to thrive over the last five years. He also talked about which drill he enjoys the most.
"When the ladies hit the stand up tackle dummy it is pretty fun to watch and we make sure they sign a medical waiver for that one," Kelly said with a laugh.