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Tom RabyTom Raby Night at Tuesday’s FHS basketball games.

Next Tuesday night, when the Franklin Panthers take on the Smoky Mountain Mustangs at home, the gym will be filled with spectators sporting purple attire to help bring attention to pancreatic cancer awareness. The night has been deemed Tom Raby Night, in memory of the beloved basketball coach who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2002.

Tom Raby served as the FHS basketball coach from 1967 to 1976. He finished his years of coaching at the school with a record of 286 wins with 91 losses. He was voted into the Hall of Fame posthumously in 2012 as one of the school's first inductees.

His wife Dianne and son Todd Raby will be on hand for the event, determined to spread awareness of the disease and remember Tom.

"This is an honor for us," said Todd. "Sometimes it takes knowing somebody to really feel an impact of the disease. A lot of people never knew that this is what he had. I know if he could be here he would want to tell people that are impacted by pancreatic cancer to just keep on fighting. He would truly feel honored."

Not only will those in attendance be urged to wear purple, the color that represents pancreatic cancer, but also to participate in the many activities that have been planned. During the time between the girls' game which starts at 6:30 p.m. and the boys' game that follows, there will be a special presentation to commemorate Coach Raby's accomplishments.

Drawings for prizes will be held throughout all of the games (junior varsity games begin at 4 p.m.). Some of the prizes include FHS 2014-2015 Season Passes (good for all sports), tickets for a show at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, and a $75 Mobile Gas Card from Dowdle Mountain Pit Stop.

There will also be various competitions that include “Slam Dunk Cancer” Shoot-outs and “Crazy for a Cure Quarter Contests.” During half-time of the Varsity Girls’ game, for $5 per half-court shot, fans can compete for a $150 Mobile Gas Card from Dowdle Mtn. Pit Stop. During half-time of the Varsity Boys’ game, for $5 per halfcourt shot, fans can compete for a $150 Radio Shack Gift Certificate. Other incentives include Holland Car Wash coupons valued at $5 each.

Fans can give money to promote special “mini-performances” (including tumbling, dancing, shoot-outs, etc.) by FHS coaches and staff as a “reward” for raising money for pancreatic cancer research in an effort to match $1,000 given by an anonymous donor. FHS Cheerleaders and the FHS Dance Team will play a key role in helping with collections. The highlight of the night will be “The Parade of TUTUs” based on the premise that pancreatic cancer is: TU horrible TU be allowed TU continue. Brave and generous men of the community are willing: TU do anything TU raise funds and awareness TU slam dunk pancreatic cancer!

The Parade of TUTUs will be held between the 3rd and 4th quarter of the Varsity Boys’ game and will feature members of the community like: Ronnie Beale, President-Elect of the NC Association of County Commissioners (and NC Commissioner of the Year for 2013-14) and Vice-Chair of the Macon County Board of Commissioners; Jim Breedlove, Chairman of the Macon County School Board; Gary Shields, Vice-Chair of the Macon County School Board and former Principal of Franklin High School; Joe Collins, former Mayor of Franklin; Robbie Holland, Sheriff of Macon County; Fred Goldsmith, former FHS Teacher and Coach, Todd Raby (representing the Raby family, Macon County Register of Deeds) and possibly other “surprise” guests. Franklin Mayor Bob Scott will take on the role of official photographer of the Purple TUTUs.

The night has been in the works for some time now by the Ramsey family who resides her in Macon County. Margaret Ramsey points to a phone call she received from her daughter back in July of 2012 as the driving force.

“It was from out healthy, athletic 56- year-old daughter—she had just been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer,” said Ramsey.

Her daughter had gotten the news after having a CT scan. The scan had come as a result of months filled with pain in her abdominal area which a doctor had first linked to her workout regiment before performing the scan and finding the cancer. After being treated by the head of gastro-oncology at MassGeneral Hospital in Boston, receiving the most up to date treatment— chemotherapy and radiation, followed by Whipple Surgery (the standard surgery for pancreatic cancer,) she was found to be “cancer free” in March 2013.

“But, as often is the case with this cancer, a six-month scan showed that it had spread to the liver. After more, and continuing chemo, the spots are shrinking,” said Ramsey. “I share her story because it illustrates some of the major problems with pancreatic cancer. There are no specific symptoms, and no standard diagnostic tests, such as a mammography or colonoscopy, so the cancer has usually spread by the time it is detected.”

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States and has the lowest five-year relative survival rate of all major cancers as defined by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute at just six percent. Of those diagnosed, 73-percent will die in the first year of diagnosis.

In the United States, an estimated 45,220 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013 and of those, 38,460 will die from the disease. Some risk factors are believed to be family history of the disease, age, chronic or hereditary pancreatitis, smoking, obesity and recent on-set diabetes.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) spent an estimated $99 million on pancreatic cancer research in 2011, 2.3 percent of their $4.3 billion cancer research budget for that fiscal year.

“Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer, although it is the fourth leading cancer killer, is the tenth in federal funding. It is expected to be the second biggest cancer killer by 2015,” says Ramsey.

In response to the lack of funding and attention, Margaret along with her whole family started working to bring awaresness to the debilitating disease that has been affecting families across the country with the hallmark of all their work culminating in Tom Raby Night on Jan. 28.

“We decided that we wanted to honor him, and, at the same time raise awareness and help raise research funding on a local level,” Ramsey said. “We chose the Smoky Mountain game because we knew that it would have the biggest turnout and it could be the foundation of our efforts.”

“It was amazing how everyone – school board, FHS, volunteers – took ownership in the project, and it took off. Theresa (Margaret's daughter-in-law) is a tremendous organizer and worker and has spear-headed the drive.”


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