HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – For the fourth year, J.R. Tucker High School student athlete Annemarie Beran is rallying the Tigers and the community for We Back Pat.
The event is happening during the girls and boys basketball games Friday evening. It’s named after former University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach, Pat Summitt, and raises money and awareness for Alzheimer’s.
“She is a legend. I love her coaching style and her philosophy. She’s just a great coach and a great woman on and off the court,” said Beran.
Beran brought the fundraiser for The Pat Summitt Foundation to her Henrico County school after her grandpa was diagnosed with the disease. She was one of the first students in the country to coordinate an event at a school.
“My grandfather always told me from the day I can remember to the last time I saw him, he always told me to go out and make a difference,” said Beran. “Whether it was in the academic world, the social world, just anything you did, go out and make a difference.”
Over the last three years, the We Back Pat events at Tucker High School have raised $15,000. Her brother, sophomore varsity basketball player Robbie Beran, is helping her lead the effort this year.
“It’s cool to see teenagers, high schoolers, who might not know anything about Alzheimer’s come to this event and maybe learn something,” said Robbie Beran. “It’s a party. There are so many people there that are just having a good time.”
His sister agrees.
“It’s high school students getting excited about something other than just going out with their friends. Even though they might just be going out with their friends, there’s a meaning to this,” she said.
Players from both teams, J.R. Tucker High School and Hermitage High School, will wear warm-ups with a We Back Pat design on the front. The first 150 people to attend the event will also receive a free We Back Pat T-shirt. The Berans encourage the crowd to dress in purple, to symbolize Alzheimer’s awareness, and bring $5 to donate. A local law firm will match those donations. There’s also a silent auction to bring in funds.
“I’ve been so lucky to have the support of the Tucker community, my coaches and teammates because I don’t think at any other school it would have been this way,” said Annemarie. “Tucker is very diverse and very accepting for anyone and any ideas, so I think this idea, they just welcomed it and it truly is a school event.”
She says the event is also an opportunity for people impacted by the disease to realize they’re not alone and engage in a conversation about it.
“Many people are very quiet because Alzheimer’s is not something to be proud of in any way, so families often shelter it. I’ve talked with many people on my team or just random people that have seen my story, Tucker’s story, on the news or in the paper, and they come and they just want to speak to me because their husband has Alzheimer’s or their grandmother has Alzheimer’s,” she said. “It’s just a really neat feeling to have that bond with someone.”
And even though Annemarie plans to attend Christopher Newport University in the fall to play basketball, her younger brother is ready to take the reins and make sure Tucker continues to back Pat. This year’s We Back Pat event will begin at 6 p.m. at the gymnasium at J.R. Tucker High School on Friday, January 29. The girls varsity basketball game begins at 6 p.m. The boys varsity basketball game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
All next week, 8News reporters Evanne Armour and Roxie Bustamante will introduce you to people like the Beran siblings who are going “Above & Beyond,” making a difference in the community. That starts Monday on Good Morning Richmond at 5 a.m.