The hugs were aplenty for Brad Loos on Saturday night, as were the smiles that beamed throughout Mizzou Arena.
For the second straight year, the Tigers emerged victorious in the Rally For Rhyan game. The 83-78 win against Arkansas ended a 13-game losing skid for Mizzou, and it was fueled in large part by the support for Loos’ 6-year-old daughter, Rhyan.
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The rally to help fight pediatric cancer helped raise $54,000 on Saturday, the school announced.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence (our two best games in the last two years have come on Rally For Rhyan nights),” Brad Loos said postgame. “... These kids take it personal. They see what my daughter goes through. They know how hard it is for her, and they really did want to win this game for her.”
The Missouri players wanted to do more than that, though, for a cancer patient that was first diagnosed with neuroblastoma in October of 2015.
Since that diagnosis, Rhyan’s undergone surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Rhyan was cleared of cancer last July, but a brain tumor was found months later near the Thanksgiving holiday. A successful surgery followed, but treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York have resumed.
On Wednesday, she was cleared to return home for the weekend. What did she look forward to most?
The Rally For Rhyan Fashion Show to raise money for pediatric cancer, and Missouri’s players gladly assisted.
“The guys might have had more fun than the kids,” Mizzou coach Kim Anderson said. “Just walking those kids down the aisle with their fancy clothes on, maybe that makes you realize how fortunate you are.”
For Puryear, who did in fact walk Rhyan down the aisle, that was definitely the case.
“To see her smiling, to see her happy with the circumstances that she’s under, that’s extremely strong of her,” Puryear said. “We all observe that, and we observe Coach Loos and his attitude as well. Being at the beauty pageant and seeing her smile, that definitely made us all happy and was a great experience for all of us.”
But so too was the game, a spectacle Anderson said was necessary for Rhyan, the coaches and players, and even himself.
In last year’s 75-64 against Tennessee, 10,536 fans showed up to support both Missouri and Rhyan. This year, a crowd smaller than the announced attendance of 11,424 people was just as loud as as engaged.
For Dave Tyson, a season-ticket holder from Independence who attends Mizzou games with his 21-year-old son Charlie, the Rally For Rhyan game is particularly special.
“It’s very inspiring considering what all she is going through,” said Tyson, who has lost two aunts to bouts with cancer. “I see the posts and the videos and she’s just a very special little girl. And hopefully she’ll be able to get through this.”
Brad Loos has seen Rhyan get through it before as well as others. One of those, a 6-year-old friend of Rhyan’s from Macon, Ga., who too was suffering neuroblastoma — Cameron Hood.
Key word in that last sentence: Was.
After being told there were no more treatment options available, Hood was fortunate enough to be considered for a clinical trial thanks to a donation made to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
And where did that donation come from? “A large portion,” Brad Loos said at halftime of Saturday’s game, “was the money raised a year ago.”
Brad said he cried when he heard the news, the same reaction he had after Saturday’s game.
A win for his team yes, and a win for all.