For Pete's Sake

Fundraiser for Jackie Stiles started in Claflin, Kan., has already shattered its goal

Five things to know about former Southwest Missouri State star Jackie Stiles

Five things to know about the career of former Southwest Missouri State star Jackie Stiles. Stiles was recently diagnosed with ocular melanoma, a cancer of the eye.
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Five things to know about the career of former Southwest Missouri State star Jackie Stiles. Stiles was recently diagnosed with ocular melanoma, a cancer of the eye.

Colton Potts is a senior at Central Plains High School, so he never saw Jackie Stiles dominate on the basketball court in Claflin and around the state of Kansas in the 1990s.

But Potts met Stiles at a basketball camp a decade ago, a memory that is still fresh in his mind.

“Living in Claflin, she’s a living legend here,” Potts told the Springfield News-Leader. “When I was a second- or third-grader, I met her at a basketball camp her dad put on. When she came in, it was like meeting Michael Jordan.”

Like nearly everyone in Claflin (population 624), Potts wanted to do something when he heard Stiles was diagnosed with a type of cancer called ocular melanoma.

So Potts set up an online fundraiser with a goal of $5,000. According to the News-Leader, when the goal is reached, it increases by another $5,000. By Saturday morning, just four days after the fundraiser started, more than $33,000 had been donated.

It’s been a remarkable showing for a remarkable athlete. Stiles scored 3,603 points during her high-school career and it remains the Kansas state record for a girl or boy. She also won 14 state track-and-field titles.

Stiles went on to help Missouri State reach the Final Four, set the NCAA record for scoring which was broken only last year and was the rookie of the year in the WNBA in 2001.

“She’s a great ambassador for the town,” Lisa Crites, who teaches business at Central Plains, told the News-Leader. “She’s never too big to come back and talk to us. She’s always just Jackie — as special on the inside as she is on the outside.”

Listen to The Star's Vahe Gregorian and Blair Kerkhoff talk about former Southwest Missouri State star Jackie Stiles.

Crites said one of her classes is hoping to create some T-shirts in support for Stiles with a further goal of selling them to help with the medical expenses not covered by Stiles’ insurance at Missouri State, where she is an assistant basketball coach.

It’s clear the Claflin loves Stiles.

“Please help this strong woman conquer cancer,” Potts wrote on the fundraising page. “Jackie Stiles is a role model and hero for many; now it is our turn to be heroes for her.”

You can donate here. You can read more about Stiles’ battle in this column from The Star’s Vahe Gregorian.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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