February 12, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Growing up, K-State men's basketball head coach Bruce Weber never flew in an airplane. His family of seven never stayed in a hotel because they just didn't have the money.
Weber's father, Louis, worked two jobs so his children could get an education, but all the while, he taught them the importance of lending a helping hand.
"Both my mom and dad, their belief was, 'Why are you put here on this earth? You have a purpose to help others any time you have the opportunity.' My mom was a saint and my dad always seemed to get along with everyone," Weber explained. "We didn't have a lot growing up, but when they could help somebody, they would go and help them whether that was volunteering, making meals, whatever it might be.
"So I kind of made a pledge coming up in the business that if I ever got to the point where I had the money and the opportunity, the face or the name, that I would make sure that I'd give back."
Weber's stayed true to that pledge, and as he's risen up in the coaching ranks, giving back is something he and his wife, Megan, have decided is of importance.
Whether it's through organizations like Coaches vs. Cancer, the Boys and Girls Club or Big Brothers Big Sisters, to name a few, or in the Manhattan and Ft. Riley communities, the couple enjoy spending time with community.
"I'm about people and kids and education," Weber said. "My dad sacrificed so we could go to college and have an opportunity, and I'm doing things in this life that I never dreamed I'd be doing. So to be able to go and help others, whether that's our players or managers or coaches, whoever it might be to have experiences that I've had, I think it's a very, very positive thing."
On Sunday evening, Weber hosted his second-annual Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge where more than 465 K-State students had the opportunity to shoot baskets in the Basketball Training Facility to raise money for Coaches vs. Cancer. For every student that showed up, Weber donated $1. For every free throw made he donated $10, for each three-pointer he donated $25 and for each half-court shot made he donated $100. Students had one chance at each shot, and if they made all three, Weber would donate an extra $1,000 to the charity.
By the end of the night, students helped raise $12,500 for Coaches vs. Cancer, and at halftime of K-State's win over Kansas on Monday evening, Megan Weber donated the check to Trysta Williams, a Manhattan volunteer for the American Cancer Society.
"Coaches vs. Cancer is our coach's charity of choice of the coaching association, but at the same time cancer, it has obviously effected my life," explained Weber. "It goes back to the early 60's. I was a little kid and my grandmother had cancer and no one knew what it was. They were just starting to get the word out, but it was like 'Quarantine for her, put her in a corner of the hospital.'
"Then I had an aunt die of breast cancer. I've had friends, my wife's parents, and the one thing positive about all that money and research is the rate of survival now is getting 60-70 percent, so a lot of progress has been made. Sooner or later it's going to affect everybody whether it's me, my kids, my grandkids, somebody, so if we can do some things now, it could save one of their lives."
The money donated each year through his Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge goes directly to the organization that empowers all sports coaches, their teams and their local communities to make a difference in the fight against cancer.
Megan is involved with The Friends of the K-State Libraries organization, and this year, is on the group's board. She said the K-State Library goes above and beyond helping student-athletes gain a quality education by giving them a place to study and gain information needed for classes.
Every year the library holds a gala to raise money for its research, and Bruce and Megan played a significant role as they are the honorary co-chairs of this year's event.
"The library is something that's very special to the basketball team," Megan said. "Bruce's players can go during the day to get help and tutoring, and it's a place they go to go get their work done. That's absolutely foremost why we decided to get involved. Both of us are very proud of the education that we were able to receive, and it's an important thing that Bruce wants for his athletes as well."
This year's gala will take place on April 11 in the Hale Library Great Room.
They don't do it for the recognition. However, their selfless service doesn't go unnoticed and has rubbed off on the K-State men's basketball team.
"It's even just beyond charity," senior forward Shane Southwell said. "When you look at Coach Weber at first glance, he's just a guy that has that type of aura that he cares about people. He's really genuine about helping and giving back. He wasn't a guy that always had a great life in terms of finance, so he understands how hard it is to be that type of person. So he gives back a lot and it's something that we look up to."
Before Christmas, the 16 different athletic teams at K-State took part in adopting different families in need around the Manhattan area and buying them gifts. Every year it's a competition between the teams with the student-athletes raising money. So, with Weber's help, the men's basketball team always seems to come out on top.
"We'd all donate like five or 10 dollars and Coach said that he would double the amount that we gave," senior guard Will Spradling said. "So that was something that was really cool. It was kind of a competition between all the other athletics teams too, and we always win because Coach Weber would donate a lot. He does a lot for the community and tries to get us involved too."
Regardless of the cause, whether it's Coaches vs. Cancer, visiting Ft. Riley, getting involved with the library or simply making someone's day, there's no doubt that in their nearly two years in Manhattan, Bruce and Megan Weber have made a significant difference in the community.
The Webers have been told, 'You can't help everyone,' however, they tend to think differently.
"There are a lot of people that need help, and if I cannot only help somebody but encourage somebody else to help somebody, pass it on, I think it all adds up to having success," Bruce said with a smile. "I'm very fortunate, very blessed to be in this business a long time and now make a good salary and have a chance to help other people. I try to do it as much as possible.
"Sometimes people say you can't help everybody, but I can try."
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