MENOMONIE — Cancer impacts everyone’s life in one way or another.
University of Wisconsin men’s head basketball coach Greg Gard is no different.
Gard, his wife, Michelle, and several others, including Chippewa Falls native Jim Scheidler were in Menomonie on Thursday at UW-Stout on behalf of Garding Against Cancer, an organization created by the Gard family on behalf of Greg’s late father Glen, who passed away from glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, in October 2015. A two-part event was held at Stout with a business luncheon in the morning, including a keynote speech from University of Wisconsin football and men’s basketball announcer Matt Lepay before an evening Family Fun Night event at Johnson Fieldhouse with all proceeds from the events staying in Dunn County to support cancer patient care.
“The root of all of this is with what we went through with my dad and his battle against cancer and really looking back at how he lived his life,” coach Gard said. “He was really into helping locally whenever he could. He thought globally but thought locally as much as he could.”
Garding Against Cancer partners with the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association to raise funds and awareness for cancer research and care in the state of Wisconsin.
The Badgers will be hosting UW-Stout on Nov. 5 in a scrimmage at the Kohl Center in Madison before opening the season against South Carolina State on Nov. 10. Wisconsin has scrimmaged against Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools for more than a decade, and with both Gard and his wife connected to the WIAC system — Coach Gard graduated from UW-Platteville while Michelle is a UW-Eau Claire alum — the opportunity to work with those schools and help those battling cancer around the state was a natural fit.
“There’s a lot of extra incentive behind it, and obviously the personal side behind it puts a little extra juice in the whole thing as far as what we’re trying to bring to the people and not have them go through what we watched my dad go through,” coach Gard said.
Thursday’s trip to Menomonie was also a special one for Scheidler, a close friend of the Gard family and the Badgers program helping them with the Garding Against Cancer events. Scheidler, a 1964 graduate of McDonell before studying economics and history at UW-Eau Claire, got the chance to return to the Chippewa Valley, and being able to combine that with a great cause made for an exciting time for the Chippewa Falls native.
“Greg is so excited about how the Stout people have embraced Garding Against Cancer in memory of his father Glen who died of brain cancer. Things are good. He’s happy, his wife is happy and there’s a partnership with Garding Against Cancer,” Scheidler said.
Gard said Scheidler is a trusty co-pilot for him any time he makes a recruiting trip to this part of the state.
“He knows the area very well. He’s very well-known and respected in the Chippewa Valley and has a lot of stories from his days in Chippewa Falls and his time (in college) at Eau Claire,” coach Gard said of Scheidler. “He’s a great friend of the program.”
Next season’s scrimmage for the Badgers will be against UW-Oshkosh before Wisconsin faces UW-Eau Claire in 2019. Gard and Scheidler have each known longtime UW-Stout coach Eddie Andrist for decades, including when Gard was coaching at UW-Platteville and Andrist was at the now-defunct Mount Senario College in Ladysmith.
Gard and the Badgers recently returned to the United States after a two-week trip overseas. Gard has been pleased with the growth his team has shown in the offseason and said getting the chance to play abroad in Australia and New Zealand has been crucial in the development of a Badger team with just one senior this season.
“A huge head start,” coach Gard said of the trip. “Any time you can make these types of trips it’s a huge advantage and it really expedited our growth, especially for a young team. We saw things and learned things that probably would’ve taken us through December to learn about our team and put guys in situations you normally don’t get the opportunity to do.”
On the heels of the program’s fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 round a season ago, expectations will be high as always for the Badgers, and while the team will experience some growing pains with a young roster of players, including La Crosse Central freshman Kobe King, Gard is confident the team will be one that has Badger fans excited once again this winter.
“Fans are going to enjoy watching this team because they’re exciting, they’re a very organized group,” coach Gard said. “They’re a together group, and there’s a lot of new faces and a lot of exciting pieces, old and new. Ethan Happ has got a lot better all the way down to our true freshmen, who I think will have Badger fans smiling for years to come.”