The second Huggins Homecoming in Cincinnati raised more than $72,500 to benefit cancer care and research at the WVU Cancer Institute.
West Virginia University Men’s Basketball Coach Bob Huggins called Cincinnati home during his tenure at the University of Cincinnati from 1989 to 2005. He returned June 6 for Huggins Homecoming, an intimate dinner event at Ohio’s original Montgomery Inn.
Emceed by longtime Cincinnati sports anchor Dennis Janson, the dinner festivities included an auction, special presentations, and Coach’s one-of-a-kind commentary. He welcomed special guests, including Rob Summers, a former WVU standout who was recently named associate head coach at Ohio’s Miami University, and Darin Rogers, vice president and chief ambulatory operations officer for WVU Medicine.
“I would like to thank Pete, Linda, and all my friends in the Cincinnati area for helping make this event a success,” Huggins said. “Being able to take our fundraising efforts on the road shows the overall commitment to fighting this terrible disease.”
Inspired by Coach Huggins and a visit to the WVU Cancer Institute, Cincinnati-area business owners Pete and Linda Zulia organized the first Huggins Homecoming in 2021. Proceeds from the event, less expenses, benefit the Norma Mae Huggins Endowment Fund at the WVU Cancer Institute.
This year’s dinner program highlighted recent achievements by the WVU Cancer Institute, including the launch of LUCAS, the nation’s first fully mobile lung cancer screening unit.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Zulias for their efforts to partner with Coach Huggins in support of the WVU Cancer Institute,” Hannah Hazard-Jenkins, M.D., director of the WVU Cancer Institute, Jean and Laurence DeLynn Chair of Oncology, and associate professor of surgery at the WVU School of Medicine, said. “The funds raised support research, education, and outreach that help to advance cancer care and improve patient outcomes – not just in West Virginia, but throughout the Appalachian region and beyond.”
Three-time WVU graduate Pete Zulia developed a friendship with Huggins after connecting many years ago at Bob Huggins Basketball Fantasy Camp. Their bond was strengthened when they discussed losing their parents to cancer. Zulia’s father, Simon, died of lung cancer more than 25 years ago, and Huggins’ mother, Norma Mae, lost her battle with colon cancer in 2003. Huggins encouraged Zulia to make a difference by supporting the memorial endowment established in his mother’s memory to benefit the WVU Cancer Institute.
While the WVU Cancer Institute primarily serves residents of West Virginia and neighboring states, the Zulias were struck by the broader impact of the clinical trials supported by the Norma Mae Huggins Endowment Fund. They summarized the importance in a slogan for potential supporters in the Cincinnati area: “Cancer Research and Care for Everyone … Everywhere.”
“Linda and I cannot thank everyone who participated in our second Huggins Homecoming enough,” Pete Zulia said. “Our goal has been, from the start, to not only create support for research and care, but ultimately form treatment models that cure people of this disease. Sharing the mission and hope with Coach Huggins is an inspiration to all of us. And we’ve recognized from the beginning that allowing the Huggins Homecoming to be a part of an endowment that bears Coach’s mom’s name develops a responsibility on us to be successful. Our mission to raise $1 million for the Norma Mae Huggins Endowment is getting closer to reality, and the 2022 event helps us in getting to that goal.”
This year’s Huggins Homecoming was presented by the Zulias’ business, Oxford Physical Therapy Centers, as well as Fleet Feet Cincinnati, Central Bank, and the Assaley Feck Herold Group at Morgan Stanley. The Montgomery Inn and Game Day Communications also provided support.
All contributions to the Norma Mae Huggins Endowment Fund are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University and its affiliated entities. Learn more about giving opportunities at the WVU Cancer Institute or visit give.wvu.edu/wvucancerinstitute to make a gift online.