DOOR COUNTY, Wis. - A Wisconsin sports couple is tying the knot and using their platform as celebrities to help raise money for families battling cancer.
NBA player and former UW-Madison Badgers star Sam Dekker, a Sheboygan native, and ESPN reporter Olivia Harlan are getting married July 14th in Door County, but the couple doesn't want a table full of wedding gifts. Instead, they're asking their guests and fans to take the money they would've spent on presents and donate it to the Children's Cancer Family Foundation which a cause that's near and dear to their hearts.
"The opportunity to help sounds better than asking a bunch of people for material gifts that we probably already own, so this our chance to do something together that we feel passionate about," said Dekker.
The basketball player, who currently plays for the L.A. Clippers, became involved with CCFF through the organization's Strike Out Cancer Day four years ago.
"There was one family Sam met his first year, this little boy Kyle, and he has since passed. He was actually buried with Sam's jersey that he signed for him," Harlan explained. "So when Sam and I were dating kind of early on, he tells me this story and you know tears are rolling down my face, and I just said, 'What else can we do?'"
The couple added CCFF's Gold Ribbon Gala to their fundraising efforts. With Harlan as co-host last year, the inaugural event raised $100,000 for the non-profit organization that serves about fifty families a year.
"Our intent is to help them financially with what they need to just keep life a little bit more normal. Whether it's medical bills, travel, lodging, you know everyday living expenses, whatever it might be. But more than that, we want to do what we can to keep them together as a family," said CCFF Co-Founder and President Sarah-Beth Janssen.
That includes CCFF providing them with fun, free family events.
"A lot of them really love the camaraderie and just the experience that they get from being around other families who've been in the same situation," Janssen said.
Now, as the L.A. Clippers player and granddaughter of former Packers President and CEO Bob Harlan and daughter to sports announcer Kevin Harlan prepare to say 'I Do,' they said it only makes sense to include CCFF in their festivities which, just like each other, has captured a special place in their hearts.
"This is always going to be home to me, so any way I can help out the people that have helped me so much is the least I can do," said Dekker.
The bride and groom have set a $50,000 goal for their wedding fundraiser. Anyone who donates $50 or more will receive an autographed thank you card as a special token of their appreciation.