To fight cancer one basketball game at a time.
Bob Moonan Jr. was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer six and a half years ago, but he kept it secret from all but his immediate family. He didn’t do this because he was afraid to open up; he did it because he was humble. Rather than receive support for his struggles, he preferred to help you with yours.
You never would have known that Bob had cancer. When the chemotherapy started ripping out his hair, he could have told you it was just a case of male-patterned baldness – and you would have believed him.
Even during his most painful times fighting cancer, a gigantic grin remained atop his 6-foot-5-inch frame. Joy, gratitude, and compassion continued to flow through his veins, fending off whatever poison the cancer treatment put there.
Bob’s mere presence induced smiles and sparked excitement in every room he ever walked into. Cancer didn’t take that from him. If anything, cancer strengthened it.
Although Moonan was diagnosed six and a half years ago, he fought cancer for 16 years.
Sixteen years ago, Moonan – along with his daughter, Kaity – founded the Jimmy V CYO Classic, a fundraiser inspired by famed college basketball coach Jim Valvano’s “Don’t give up … Don’t ever give up” speech. Valvano fought cancer in the spotlight and launched the V Foundation for Cancer Research, a charitable organization dedicated to saving lives by finding a cure for cancer.
As such, the event is organized under the Philadelphia Friends of V, a charitable organization that advocates – and educates its community about – the need for cancer research and raises money for the V Foundation.
The event raises money while Church Youth Organization (CYO) basketball teams play, DJ Patrick Lubey blasts music, attendants try at raffles and 50-50s, do-gooders receive awards, and volunteers serve food fresh off the grill. In between it all, the mood was set with undertones of sportsmanship, having fun, and embracing one another.
Every year, the event posts “Don’t give up … Don’t ever give up” as its slogan across the basketball gym’s walls, on T-shirts, and inside program booklets. But this year, the Friends of V added another slogan. It reads: “Be Like Bob.”
To Be Like Bob, is to be like Jimmy V. If you ever met Bob, you’d know just how much he embraced the values that Jimmy V stood for. Fortunate for me (and 20 others), I got to call him an uncle and experience it first-hand.
Jimmy V made his famous speech just eight weeks before he passed from cancer, full of the same vibrancy Moonan displayed during his fight.
“He talked to me as if I was the CEO, and always asked me how I was doing, how my family was doing,” said Mary Umstead, a Key Constituent liaison at the V Foundation that collaborated with Moonan for many years in their joint-mission to fight cancer. She traveled from North Carolina to support the tournament-fundraiser and share fond stories of Moonan.
“There’s other events that raise money, but there’s nothing else like this,” said Umstead. The V Foundation plans to create a grant in Moonan’s name, a token of appreciation for what he did.
In the past 16 years, the Philadelphia Friends of V, run by Moonan, along with his daughters, wife, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, friends, and more, have raised more than $300,000 for cancer research.
Since inception, the V Foundation provided more than $225 million in grants for cancer research.
The V Foundation’s YouTube video of Jimmy V’s famous speech alone reached more than 4.5 million views.
Bob reached hundreds of people each Jimmy V weekend for 15 years. He reached youthful basketball players and their families, Yardley-community members, friends, and most importantly, those impacted by the perils of cancer.
Jimmy V passed away in 1993, yet his message continues to permeate 25 years later. Bob passed away this past November, but his presence has never been stronger at the Jimmy V CYO Classic. His spirit is stronger than his physical presence ever was.
Bob had a knack for checking in on others.
When I was going through my roughest times in life, Bob greeted me with letters typed on his very own letterhead with his name pasted at the top, or with his classic voicemail message: “Kyle, Bob Moonan here. Just calling to see how you’re doing and wish you well.” He always included his last name, even to his wife – in case we somehow mistook him for someone else.
When my mom finally told me about Uncle Bob, it was my turn to check in on him. I pick up my phone and make the call.
“Big Man, what’s going on?” said Bob.
The next thing I know, 20 minutes go by. I called to talk to ask him how he’s doing – but he’s so darn good at asking me how I’m doing, I didn’t get the chance yet.
“That’s all great stuff. I mean, wow. All right, Kyle, I’m gonna get go--”
“Whoa, whoa, wait,” I interrupted. “What about you? How are you doing?” I asked.
That’s what it means to “Be Like Bob.” It means to ask others how they’re doing. And when they answer, to listen intently. It means to treat everyone you come across with respect and kindness. It means to offer a smile to a frowning stranger, and a hug to a saddened friend. It means to appreciate every waking moment we have on this Earth, for we are so incredibly fortunate to be here.
Jimmy V said to never give up. Moonan never did. Jimmy V stood for something greater than himself, and so did Bob. Jimmy V will always be remembered. And so will Bob.
To learn more or get involved, visit phillyfriendsofv.org
Kyle Schachner and his family have lived in Bucks County for more than 60 years.
St John’s the Evangelist Church in Morrisville doesn’t host Mass on Friday and Saturday nights – so why was its parking lot packed with cars one recent weekend?