Richard Barron is willing to go the extra mile for a worthy cause.
To spearhead the University of Maine women’s basketball program’s support of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, it literally has meant letting his hair down.
For the last few months, Barron has featured a hairstyle and goatee fitting of Jeff Lebowski, Jeff Bridges’ character in “The Big Lebowski.”
“It’s made for some interesting conversations before games with officials who don’t recognize me after knowing me for 15 years,” Barron said Friday in anticipation of UMaine’s annual Play4Kay game, scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. against Binghamton at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Barron’s hair is longest it has ever been to help promote the initiative, which raises money for the Kay Yow Foundation, which funds breast cancer research.
“I didn’t have to style it or anything — well, maybe I should have,” Barron joked of his hair. “It’s made for some good laughs for my players and my children.”
This year, the Black Bears’ third-year coach issued a challenge to UMaine supporters that if they could raise $10,000 prior to Sunday, not only would he have his head shaved after the game, he also would dye his hair pink for the day.
“I wanted to keep it fresh and exciting for the people who’ve been so generous donating in the past,” Barron said. “I was just trying to keep some energy with the idea of letting the hair grow out.”
Barron, who on Halloween appeared on WABI-TV5 dressed as “Anchorman” character Ron Burgundy, has a direct connection to the fundraising project.
Yow, the longtime head women’s basketball coach at North Carolina State, died of breast cancer in 2009. Barron knew her through his involvement with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and later served as an assistant coach at N.C. State.
It was nine years ago that Yow started that school’s “Hoops for Hope” fundraising game, the precursor to the Play4Kay initiative, which is nationwide.
UMaine is conducting its third such fundraising drive and has raised more than $17,000 during the first two years. The Kay Yow Cancer Fund is the official charity of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, which has helped foster support for the program at schools throughout the country.
“There are hundreds of games going on across the country, whether it’s Division I, II, III, NAIA, junior college, community college, high school. There’s AAU and middle school games,” said Robin Pate, the director of community development for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, which is based in Raleigh, N.C.
The motto for this year’s Play4Kay effort is “United We Fight.”
“Coach Yow wanted coaches and teams and fans to come together for a common cause,” Pate said.
“We’re so glad that Richard and you guys at the University of Maine have been such huge supporters, not only financially but with Richard speaking out about it,” he added.
Barron is confident UMaine will eclipse the $10,000 mark this weekend for the second time.
“He looks like he needs a haircut pretty bad,” quipped Pate. “For his sake, I sure hope they do get that goal.”
UMaine women’s basketball will hold its “Evening with the Black Bears” Saturday from 7-9 p.m. Fans are invited to join the players and coaches for a social evening at the home of Jody and Matt Bourassa, 51 Thomas Hill Road in Bangor.
A donation of $50 covers appetizers and libations. Contact Samantha Wheeler by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 581-1075.