In the final few months of her life, I felt very blessed to get to know Norma Mae Huggins. Norma passed away in May of 2003 from colon cancer at the age of 68. She was the mother of my good friend and current West Virginia Mountaineers Head Basketball Coach Bob Huggins.
After being diagnosed with cancer during the 2003 season, Coach Huggins and I spent many hours together driving to Northeast Ohio to visit his mother for any length of time that his schedule would allow. Sometimes we would leave following a game, arriving at 3:00 AM, spend the night and rush back for practice the next day. Other times would be a drive up and back to the Canton, Ohio hospital or the Huggins household for the day.
During this rough patch for the entire Huggins family, I spent time with Norma Mae, her other children and grandchildren as she fought this awful disease. I appreciated the way the Huggins family made me feel very welcome sitting in their basement visiting with Norma and others.
I will always feel terrible that I was stuck in Colorado when Norma passed in May of 2003, and could not make it back to Ohio for the funeral.
Following her death, Coach Huggins set up the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Foundation at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer center at West Virginia University Hospitals. One a recent trip to Morgantown to see Coach Huggins I learned of a partnership with the Norma Mae Huggins Foundation and Friends of WVU Hospitals Gift Shop.
Together, these two groups are selling the “Hug-A-Bear,” the third edition of the Monti-bear series (produced by Gund). This stuffed toy is endorsed and co-designed by Coach Huggins. The black stuffed bear wears a coonskin cap, a blue blazer and carries a basketball.
A portion of the proceeds go to the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Foundation. They were first sold at the West Virginia Coliseum during the Mississippi game, and are currently being sold at the gift shop or online.
Please click on this link to view and order one. I have placed my order for this unique bear. With money going to such a great cause, I could not resist. And the coolest part of this bear, you turn his tail and he plays “Country Roads.
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by Ernie Banks