Column: The 'Rally for Rhyan' game was a win for everyone

Brad Loos: “This is a little girl that of the 10,000 here, 9,500 probably have never met her."
Missouri basketball coach Brad Loos and his family watch the #RallyForRhyan video tribute before coming out on the court during halftime of the game against Tennessee on Feb. 13 in Mizzou Arena.

The twinkle in Kim Anderson’s eye spoke the loudest as he choked up in the postgame press conference.

Looking down at the podium as he sat silent next to senior center Ryan Rosburg and freshman forward Kevin Puryear, Anderson was overcome by enough emotion to tear up.

The tears were a glimmer of happiness. They were a glimmer of hope. They were a glimmer of accomplishment.

Saturday, Feb. 13, was one of the brighter days in the Missouri men’s basketball 2015-16 season for Anderson and for fans. Mizzou won a basketball game for the first time in over a month. Yes, that was significant, but that’s not what made the day special.

Saturday was about Rhyan Loos, the 5-year-old daughter of Missouri men’s basketball assistant coach Brad Loos, and her battle with pediatric cancer.

“I think this is a meaningful day for a lot of reasons,” Anderson said. “I want to thank the athletic department and everybody who made today possible.”

Rhyan Loos is one of 15,000 kids in America to be diagnosed with cancer each year. Since her diagnosis of stage 4 bone cancer in October, the “Rally for Rhyan” cause has become a movement across colleges thanks to support from the Missouri athletic department.

To extend that support, the university allowed all fans general admission for the price of a donation of their choice against Tennessee, while all students could attend for free. Ultimately, over $50,000 was raised and the support for a cause that everyone could relate to was impressive, to say the least.

And for Mizzou basketball, “impressive” in any stretch has been far-fetched. The team is 9-16, and the program has dealt with suspensions and self-imposed penalties. But on a day like Saturday, something bigger materialized at Mizzou Arena.

“You couldn’t have scripted this day any better than how it went today,” Brad Loos said postgame. “We had no idea what was going to transpire and in my wildest imagination, this would have been unbelievable. The way it turned out was amazing and I couldn’t have asked for any more.”

There were so many moments that will be etched in memory for many of those in attendance.

It was the passion in Brad’s voice at halftime with his daughter by his side and, “When you picked a fight with Rhyan Loos, you messed with the wrong little girl.”

It was the unity in a snapshot of freshman point guard Terrence Phillips giving the game ball to Rhyan postgame.

It was the money, the support and the awareness generated that made it such a special day.

“What does this say about this community? What does this say about this athletic department? What does this say about everyone in mid-Missouri? How special is this?” Brad said. “This is a little girl that of the 10,000 here, 9,500 probably have never met her. And for them to come here and give their time and their money and their support, that says something about the type of people that we have in mid-Missouri and that’s very special.”

For kids, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Think about that — an unavoidable illness is the leading cause of death for America’s future students, teachers, doctors or businessmen.

You know it sucks, and I know it too. You know someone who’s been afflicted with it, as do I. But you know what Saturday showed? Both you and I can do something about it.

Stuart Scott, the ESPN anchor who died from cancer at age 49, once said, “Every day, I am reminded that our life's journey is really about the people who touch us."

Wearing the gold and black “Rally for Rhyan” bracelet, Anderson looked up from the podium and seemed to gather himself. His deep voice filled the air, but the emotion never left. His journey as the Missouri men’s basketball coach will continue tomorrow as will yours in whatever you do.

But you’ll be reminded of the little 5-year-old girl that touched and will continue to touch the heart of the entire fanbase in her fight against cancer.

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