BYU hoops

BYU Hoops: Cougars join kids at special charity event

2013-12-19T00:20:00Z 2014-01-06T12:32:13Z BYU Hoops: Cougars join kids at special charity eventJason Franchuk - Daily Herald Daily Herald
December 19, 2013 12:20 am  • 

Seventeen years ago, Mac Boyter probably couldn't have envisioned a time when someone would whip out a cell phone and shoot a video of the BYU basketball team singing Christmas carols.

He wasn't that kind of visionary, at least when it came to technology.

But when it came to kindness and compassion, Boyter was remembered Wednesday as a prince who found a unique way to bring happiness to youngsters that were afflicted by a disease that approached himself in three separate ways.

The foundation he started with three others once upon a time, now a community mainstay, continued on with his name at the annual Christmas party.

It was moved to the NuSkin Innovation Center this year after a few years at Vivint, and before that at a banquet room at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Otherwise, the same feelings were present at the Mac's Gift Children's Cancer Foundation. The only thing missing was Boyter, who passed away in October.

"He put his heart into this," said BYU basketball coach Dave Rose, who fought back tears while addressing the crowd of about 60 families.

As in the past, the Cougar basketball team participated in the middle of finals week. They played games with children and made their own choir to belt out some holiday classics.

"I probably sound the best out of the group," joked Anson Winder, who was in a good mood because he wrapped up tests earlier in the day.

It is a festive occasion amid trying times for many families.

It's a two-day event in which parents of children with cancer were invited to a sit-down dinner. Many say that the prepared meal is wonderful, and so is the company of others who know exactly what they're going through on a daily basis.

"There is a lot of support here for the families," Rose said.

Families are also given the chance to turn in gift wish lists.

The foundation honors one request of each child in the participating families, and not just making purchases for the children who have cancer. This year, there were also portraits taken of all the families, something that can be hard to do — like Christmas shopping — around the burden of medical appointments and other less festive obligations.

The event's come a long way. Boyter produced a devoted staff of year-round volunteers, namely Rose and his wife, Cheryl.

Rose still remembers meeting Boyter the first time, an evening much like this one with cold and wet. It was at the beginning of his coaching career at BYU, as an assistant, and he received a note on his desk requesting that he bring some team posters to a local car dealership.

Rose brought his wife to the small get-together. They were so moved, they just had to join in with what used to be known as the Children with Cancer Christmas Foundation.

It changed names smoothly, trying to honor Boyter — who was OK using his name but wasn't exactly fond of any publicity for himself.

"He was a special guy," said Raquel Jex, who is now part of the board. "His first concern was everyone else, always. He was just very sweet and giving. It's hard to describe how much."

Once a child facing kidney cancer, Jex understands the strain placed on all family members when a child is ill.

The goal of the party is to try and displace some of those burdens temporarily.

Parents chatted while their kids ran around, playing games, opening presents and generally just being kids around a 16,000-square foot atrium decorated dreamily for the season.

There were about 60 families there this year, including about a dozen new ones.

They find out about the party through word-of-mouth more than anything, as foundation members can't legally seek out potential participants.

The party has developed into a highlight of the year with the Cougars. Some years, there are new players who look a little more apprehensive about the scene than others.

This particular year — though Rose quipped he wasn't sure if it would be a good group of singers — they were all in. Even after a long day that started with a 6 a.m. practice.

Players belted out carols, and freshman Frank Bartley IV at one point recorded his team with his cell phone.

"It's a good relaxation period," Winder said. "We can all just hang out. But you also put your own problems to the side. It's a fun experience."

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