WHITEWATER — Janesville natives Pat Miller and Greg Hughes got together last Sunday in Janesville to watch some football.
Miller, the long-time coach of the UW-Whitewater men’s basketball team and Fort Atkinson resident, and Hughes — who is senior vice president, communications, NBC Sports Group out of New York City — don’t get together as often as they would like. When they do, anything goes.
“As you know, I rarely have anything complimentary to say about Pat,” Hughes began.
“By rarely, he means never,” Miller interjected.
Despite their verbal jabs regarding everything from hairlines to golf scores, the two are teaming for a worthwhile cause Saturday.
When Miller’s Warhawks take on UW-Oshkosh at Kachel Gymnasium at 5 p.m. Saturday, the Kisses From Keegan foundation will be the beneficiary.
Kisses From Keegan (kissesfromkeegan.org) is a Lake Geneva-based foundation to benefit area children suffering from cancer and their families. Based on the Make-A-Wish foundation, Kisses From Keegan provides funds for cancer victims and their families to take trips — to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago or Wisconsin Dells, for example — to attend events or even having a spa day.
“You’re really trying to help the families because their lives are turned upside down,” said Lake Geneva resident Tom Walton, who is a Kisses From Keegan board member. “It’s just a respite. It gives the kids and their families a chance to say, ‘Let’s breathe.’”
The Warhawks players have conducted fundraising on campus for Saturday’s event. Community organizations have provided items that will be part of a silent auction. Raffles will be conducted. University student organizations also will lend a hand.
The benefit game sprouted from a Kisses From Keegan golf outing Miller attended last summer. Gary Ruch, a former basketball standout at Badger High and at UW-Whitewater in the 1980s, helped run the event at Evergreen Golf Course.
After learning about the foundation, Miller suggested holding a benefit game.
“We’ve been such a benefactor of community support and help, and our players have benefited,” Miller said. “I thought it would be good for our players to get involved.”
All money raised by Kisses From Keegan goes to children and their families, said Walton, who is the general manager of Peck & Weis, a Lake Geneva heating and cooling business. Everyone associated with the foundation is a volunteer.
“One hundred percent of our money stays within — mostly with the Children’s Wisconsin Hospital in Milwaukee, some with the American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison and some with the Chicago Children’s Hospital,” Walton said. “It’s stays right here.”
Paul Denecke knows first-hand the benefits the foundation can provide.
The foundation was formed after his daughter, Keegan, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on Oct. 11, 2013 when she was 7.
Parents never forget the exact date.
Keegan, who will be introduced at the game, has been declared cancer-free.
“She’s doing great,” Denecke said. “She’s a normal, healthy eighth-grade girl.”
While Paul’s wife, Carey, still has trouble going back to the Milwaukee Children’s Hospital, Paul makes regular trips there to speak with children being treated and their families. The Lake Geneva Jaycees donated 500 children tents to Kisses From Keegan, which Paul delivers along with blankets and other items to make the youngsters more comfortable.
“People were incredible to us,” Denecke said. “That was the driving force in wanting to give back. People who we had never met before came out of the woodwork. People went above and beyond. We just felt it was the right thing to do.”
The benefit game’s primary sponsor is the Janesville bar Barkley’s Burgers, Brews, and Dawgs, which is donating $1,000.
Hughes is the principal owner of Barkley’s, along with Bazinga’s and Gameday bars in Janesville.
He said the businesses are always looking for ways to contribute to worthy causes, and his long-time friend Miller provided a great opportunity to do that.
“It wasn’t one I was familiar with going in,” Hughes said of Kisses From Keegan. “But the bars try to do things to support the community and activities in the community. Here was another chance to do that.”
Area basketball fans are invited to join in on the fun Saturday afternoon. No matter what the final score, everyone will leave a winner.