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Huggins event raises over $268K to benefit research at WVU Cancer Institute

DJ E.J. Prince watches as (from left) Juwan Staten, Alex Ruoff, Jerrod Calhoun, Darris Nichols, Joe Mazzulla and Da’Sean Butler chat with Bob Huggins at a fundraising event in Beckley.

DJ E.J. Prince watches as (from left) Juwan Staten, Alex Ruoff, Jerrod Calhoun, Darris Nichols, Joe Mazzulla and Da’Sean Butler chat with Bob Huggins at a fundraising event in Beckley. 

With support from current and former West Virginia University men’s basketball players, Head Coach Bob Huggins inspired a Beckley-area audience to contribute $268,326 to bolster clinical research and patient care at the WVU Cancer Institute.

 “An Evening with Bob Huggins” attracted more than 200 attendees to the Fairchild Motor Company showroom in Beaver, West Virginia. All proceeds raised benefit the Norma Mae Huggins Endowment Fund at the WVU Foundation.

A $50,000 gift from Leonard Urtso and family boosted the event’s fundraising total. Urtso is the president and CEO of A.L. Lee Corporation, a manufacturer of underground mining equipment based in nearby Lester, West Virginia. He and his family are longtime supporters of WVU Athletics.

The event was presented by Little General Stores and Greg Darby, the company’s president and co-owner.

“I cannot thank my friend Greg Darby and his Little General team enough for leading the charge in raising over a quarter-million dollars in Beckley for my mother’s fund,” Huggins said. “We are on a mission to defeat cancer; events and supporters like those who attended here in Beckley are going to make that happen.”

Longtime West Virginia broadcaster and Beckley Mayor Bill O’Brien served as emcee for the event, during which Huggins welcomed a deep bench of WVU men’s basketball players past and present. Current players Sean McNeil, Jalen Bridges, Taz Sherman, Gabe Osabuohien and Isaiah Cottrell joined former players Da’Sean Butler, Alex Ruoff, Joe Mazzulla, Darris Nichols and Juwan Staten as special guests, along with former WVU assistant coach Jerrod Calhoun. Their participation helped rally supporters, along with Huggins’ moving story of why and how the Norma Mae fund was established.

Coach Huggins created the endowment to honor his mother, who passed away in 2003 following a long battle with colon cancer. To date, the endowment has raised more than $8 million to support clinical research trials and innovative treatments for patients at the WVU Cancer Institute and WVU Medicine facilities throughout the state.

“It goes without saying how much we appreciate Coach Huggins and those who consistently support his vision,” Hannah Hazard-Jenkins, M.D., director of the WVU Cancer Institute, said. “It is imperative we reduce the amount of cancer in the state and improve the survival for those who are diagnosed. The Norma Mae Huggins Endowment Fund supports all aspects of cancer care in this state and region – screening for early detection, access to new and innovative treatments, and research that will hopefully lead to earlier and easier cancer detection. Together, we will make a difference in the cancer narrative of this state.”

Sponsors Little General, Fairchild Motor Company, Mid-State Ford, Pasquale’s and Artisan Grange also provided generous support to ensure the success of the Aug. 27 event.

All contributions to the Norma Mae Huggins Endowment Fund are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that solicits and administers private donations on behalf of the University. To make a gift, visit or contact WVU Cancer Institute Director of Development Cory Chambers at

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