It may not seem like basketball, fashion and cancer research go together, but if you know Lauren Aitch-Guerrant, it all makes perfect sense.
In this month's #SWISStrong report, we introduce you to this former Spartan athlete, who's determined to find a cure.
Basketball has always held a special place in Aitch-Guerrant's life. Her father, Matthew Aitch, played for Michigan State before going pro, and she followed in his footsteps.
"As an athlete, you're always trying to push yourself," said Aitch-Guerrant. "You're always challenging yourself."
But her biggest challenge, didn't happen on the court. Her father passed away when she was still a student at MSU.
"He was a great man, and very giving," said Aitch-Guerrant.
Just like her dad, she went on to play professionally, but her time in Copenhagen left her wanting more.
"I was kind of coming to a close, of 'Ok, What do I want to do next?', said Aitch-Guerrant. "This was great, I had a great time doing it, but what is in my next steps?"
She wanted to do something in honor of her dad, and after losing six family members to cancer, she decided to start a foundation in his name, to raise money for early detection. And in 2011, the Aitch Foundation was born.
"I felt like this was something that I could be a part of, and I could compete, and help save lives," said Aitch-Guerrant.
So she created cancer research fellowships at Michigan State; $30,000 grants for post-doctoral students like Senem Aykul.
"The science is expensive," said Aykul. "It's just so expensive, and with this fellowship, we were able to do more research."
In Aykul's case, that research led to five published papers, a larger federal grant, and a breakthrough discovery.
"A molecule called the cerberus. And this molecule, we show that it is really effective on preventing the tumor-forming potential of the cancer cells, and the spread of those cells in the body," said Aykul.
A discovery, she says, wouldn't have been possible without the fellowship.
"It was an incredible opportunity," she said.
To raise money for these fellowships, Aitch-Guerrant turns to another one of her passions, fashion.
"I always wanted to get involved in clothing," she said.
And now, she is. Through the Aitch Foundation's Annual Hidden Key Fashion Show, a chance for people to come together and watch former athletes, cancer survivors and community leaders model, learn more about the fellows and their work, and raise money in the fight against cancer.
"We try to create an atmosphere of hope, an atmosphere of just encouragement," said Aitch-Guerrant.
And just like on the hardwood, Aitch-Guerrant is playing to win. In the first seven years, Aitch-Guerrant and her team have managed to raise more than $400,000 for cancer research, no doubt leaving a legacy as strong as her father's.
"Just to be a piece of what he was, and what he's done for the community and a lot of other people, is what I strive to do," said Aitch-Guerrant. "I believe that he would be very, very proud of me."
If you're interested in attending the Hidden Key Fashion Show, tickets are still available. This year's theme is "Safari Experience...the Adventure Continues!" It will be on May 17th from 5:30-10PM in the Huntington Club at Spartan Stadium. Tickets are $75 in advance, and $100 at the door.
You can learn more by visiting The Aitch Foundation online, at www.AitchFoundation.com .