When Debbie Bradford saw former West Virginia University standout Da'Sean Butler lying injured on the floor during last spring's Final Four semifinal game against Duke, she had thoughts of her late mother.
Butler, the leading scorer for the Mountaineers, had torn his ACL in his knee while trying to rally his team against the Blue Devils. His career wearing the Gold & Blue had ended on the hardwood floor of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
One of the first persons to comfort the senior standout was Bob Huggins, who looked more of a father tending to his injured child than a head coach trying to win a game.
DONATION?— Elkins High School basketball coach Roy Simms gives a check to Debbie Bradford towards the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund. Tiger basketball players Zach Watson and Nic Hammond raised the money that was donated. (CU?and The Inter-Mountain/Andrew Davis)
"That was mom coming out in Bob," said Bradford of her older brother. "You could see the emotion and concern he had for Da'Sean. My mom was the same way, she was a giving person and always had a smile on her face."
Norma Mae Huggins passed away from colon cancer in May of 2003. To pay tribute to her mother, Bradford came up with an idea during WVU's NCAA Tournament run.
"I had met Jeff Moores during the second round of the tournament and we shared some stories of how cancer had played a part in our lives.
"I called Bob and told him we had to do something for cancer."
Moores, an artist from New York who attended WVU, had sold T-shirts during Mountaineer games. He worked with Bradford and the coach in starting to the Huggie Bear line, which features autographed items and several themed baskets.
"The idea for the baskets came from when we were young," Bradford said. "My mom would put clothes baskets on the stairs and my brothers would practice shooting into them."
The baskets include one with a lid that has Huggins' signature and a basketball engraved on top and another shaped like the state of West Virginia. Autographed T-shirts, cups and pictures are also available.
"Our website is up and running," Bradford said. "It is huggiebearproducts.com."
Bradford added that cancer strikes everyone in one way or the other.
"To help in the fight against cancer has been a passion for me," she said. "I prayed to God to help me find a way to help the cause and it's wonderful to come up with an idea like this as a start."
A portion of every product sold will go to the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund at WVU's Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.
"Our motto is 'Our mom was one in a million, so let's raise $1 million for cancer," Bradford added.