Commentary: "Delaware Dance"
Published: Monday, March 12, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 02:03
Sunday brought two Delawareans to the stage of victory in the Delaware Field House: Joe McDonough and Elena Delle Donne. Both appeared on stage, though not at the same time, at the university's fifth annual UDance concert. And each took very different paths to get there.
McDonough started the B+ Foundation after his son, Andrew, died of a sudden and severe case of leukemia in 2007. The McDonough family established the foundation to assist families with children diagnosed with cancer and other rare diseases, naming the organization after the double meaning associated with Andrew's blood type.
McDonough teamed up with members of the university's Greek life community, which organized the first UDance. Five years ago, the first UDance event raised approximately $8,000. Sunday, after nearly a year of planning and "canning," UDance raised $455,982.16. In fact, this year's UDance raised more money than all the others combined.
Toward the end of the event, I was standing with some friends in the back, away from the mosh pit of dancers, when McDonough came up right next to me. I looked at him as he observed the crowd, and it seemed as if he was taking a mental picture, trying to take in the moment.
And as the UDance executive board members gave their thanks to McDonough and his wife, Chris, he resisted the moment when the cheers turned to him. At that moment, he was shooting a video of UDance's final moments like a proud parent.
McDonough finally relented and briefly recognized the crowd, but it was not until a loud wave of applause engulfed him. McDonough's humility in the closing minutes of UDance showed incredible character for someone who could have taken all the credit for starting the UDance movement.
In many ways, Delle Donne, the All-American basketball player, expressed the same humility during her team's appearance on the UDance stage after it won the CAA tournament Sunday. The junior star never spoke to the crowd, but joyfully watched head coach Tina Martin let loose and dance to LMFAO's "I'm Sexy and I Know It."
Delle Donne seemed reserved holding onto the CAA title trophy, but flashed a smile to her teammates on stage. Her face was shadowed by her CAA champions hat, but her general demeanor appeared reflective, never even close to self-indulgent.
For someone who had just been named CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player and leads the nation in scoring with 854 points on the season—61 more than the closest player—Delle Donne seemed like just another happy face on the stage.
Delle Donne's road to success is well-documented. She originally committed to UConn to play basketball after graduating high school, but in the summer before her freshman season, she quickly changed her mind, and transferred to Delaware. After a season on the volleyball squad, Delle Donne returned to basketball, where she fought through multiple injuries and constant taunts by opposing fans to achieve the best season in Delaware women's hoops.
I hope it's well understood that the adversity McDonough endured is very different than Delle Donne's athletic obstacles. The loss of a son can never be compared to an achievement in a game.
But McDonough and Delle Donne have become very well-known figures in the Delaware social sphere, especially in Newark. It would be hard to walk around campus and not see a B+ Foundation T-shirt labeled, "Live Like Andrew." After the women's basketball team's success all season, it would be hard to find someone who did not know about Delle Donne.
When the spotlight shines on people, some start to waver, some bask in the glory, but very few keep calm, steady and poised to turn adversity into optimism. An even smaller group of individuals take life's obstacles, turn them into success stories and stand back behind the crowd when it's all done, just to take in the moment.
In very different ways, McDonough and Delle Donne found out how to "Live Like Andrew."
Pat Gillespie is a senior reporter at The Review. Send questions, comments and the school's first-ever NCAA women's basketball tournament win to firstname.lastname@example.org.