Q&A with Play4TheCure Coach Debra McMullen - NFCR


Q&A with Play4TheCure Coach Debra McMullen

Play4TheCure is the sports-fundraising program at the National Foundation for Cancer Research. Play4TheCure inspires athletes and their teams to leverage their passion for sports to “Play4” loved ones affected by cancer and encourages them to actively participate in working to fund cancer research to make a difference. Through Play4TheCure, teams are allowed to choose how they fundraise and what type of cancer research they would like to support, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting NFCR-supported scientists.

East Greenwich High School Field Hockey together wearing yellow shirts with pink ribbons
Debra McMullen is the Field Hockey Head Coach at East Greenwich High School in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Her team has hosted Play4TheCure games for NFCR since 2013 and has raised over $6,000 for cancer research. We reached out to Coach McMullen to learn what contributes to her team’s continued commitment and success.

Q: What role do the student-athletes play in fundraising and preparing for the game? What are some of the fundraising efforts your team participates in?
DM: The girls advertise around school and sell t-shirts. Our local sports shop makes our t-shirts and charges only $5 per shirt. We sell them to our youth league, middle school team, our team and our opponent for $10. This year, we ordered 200, and made $1,000 at a $5 profit per shirt.
Additionally, our parents set up a snack bar with all sorts of pink treats. The snack bar accepts donations and, this year alone, made $791.

Q: Did the team enjoy fundraising? If so, what was the best part?
DM: They enjoy playing for a cause, dressing up in pink and getting shirts!

Q: What is the atmosphere like on game day? What, if any, activities do you do to honor those that are fighting or have fought cancer?
DM: We had a tripleheader with our middle school, JV and varsity teams. Also, our youth team had a halftime shootout during the varsity game. It is a great atmosphere and tradition.

Q: What kind of impact do you see this having on your community?
DM: It is a tradition the girls and families look forward to.

Q: Are there any personal stories from individuals or families that you would like to share?
DM: We had a player lose a friend to childhood cancer. We put her name on our shirts and dedicated the game to her. We also sent her family shirts.

Q: Why did your team originally join Play4TheCure? Why does the team continue to return?
DM: I saw it online and realized how fortunate we are and wanted to give back. I strongly believe giving back is an important part of education and life.


Debra McMullen started coaching field hockey at East Greenwich High School, her alma mater, in 1983. There, she coached her two older daughters, Kaley and Courtney, who continued on to play Division 1 at Fairfield University and College of the Holy Cross, respectively. Her two younger children, Abbey and Jack, currently attend East Greenwich High School. McMullen attended Springfield College and has been married to her husband, Sean, for twenty-two years.

If you want to share your Play4TheCure story OR if you are interested in getting involved, email Play4TheCure@nfcr.org! For more updates follow us on Twitter (@P4TC_NFCR), Facebook (Play4TC) and Instagram (@Play4thecure).