Bielema, Ryan team up to help fight cancer

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photo.JPGHead coach Bret Bielema is surrounded by inspiration. His mother is a 22-year breast cancer survivor. His secretary Lisa Powell is a survivor as well. And this week, he was literally surrounded.

Bielema and head men's basketball coach Bo Ryan were the honorary starters for the Madison Race for the Cure, which drew an estimated 14,000 participants at the Alliant Energy Center on Saturday morning.

"I've got a mother that's a 22-year breast cancer survivor so any opportunity to work with Susan G. Komen has been very special for me," Bielema said. "I've grown to appreciate the people of Madison and all the people that support this cause. To see close to 14,000 people out there on Saturday was wonderful."

After spending much of Thursday and Friday together for the Badger Days event in Wisconsin Dells, including golfing in the same foursome on Friday, Bielema and Ryan have seen a lot of each other recently.

"What made it especially entertaining was spending most of the morning in a truck with Bo Ryan," Bielema said.

Following the race, Bielema moved into the survivors' tents to mingle with the participants.

"I was actually in the survivors' tent at the end of the race and hugged probably between 100-200 survivors and got to congratulate them, making it a very special event."

Bielema also hosts his own event to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Football 101 for Women. Held Wednesday at Camp Randall Stadium, the event is in its third year.

"The event is once again sold out," Bielema said. "Every year we've done it we've increased the numbers. This year we're up to about 300. It's a great way for us to raise awareness of breast cancer but also educate women about football. It's a football 101 class that will give them some insight into our program and what we think is important."

For Ryan, the Race for the Cure was just the start of a busy weekend. He headed back up to Wisconsin Dells on Sunday for "An Evening with Andy & Friends Dinner" and Monday's "Andy North & Friends Golf Getaway." Both events were designed to raise money and awareness for the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.  

An auction accompanied Sunday night's dinner, during which a pair of seats behind the Badger bench for the Marquette game fetched more than $11,000. Among the celebrities in attendance were ESPN's Erin Andrews, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former Indiana coach and current ESPN men's basketball commentator Bobby Knight.

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