This week, Colorado Springs basketball officials join fight to stop cancer

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Sports officials are taught to put their individual allegiances aside. Once they don a black-and-white striped shirt, it's all about rules, fairness and making the right call, regardless of who's playing.

But nothing can stop referees from rooting against a formidable foe.

Cancer.

This week, the refs are taking a stand.

"All three of us have had a parent pass away from cancer, and our loved ones are never far from us," said Colorado Springs official Tom Carricato, moments before he took the court Wednesday when Vista Ridge visited Sand Creek in boys' basketball. "I think this week, it's fair to say they will cross our minds a little more, and maybe we'll put in a little extra effort this week working hard for them knowing they're looking over us."

Carricato is among the many belonging to the Colorado Springs Basketball Officials Associations who are wearing pink this week and part of 1,100 statewide participating in the "Officials vs. Cancer" campaign that hopes to raise a five-figure donation to fight the disease.

Refs are wearing pink-striped shirts and carrying pink whistles - some have even gone so far as to display pink-dyed hair - to bring awareness to cancer, and fans at some 85 games around the Pikes Peak region will have a chance to give to the cause.

Just look for the pink bucket.

"All we want is nickels, dimes and quarters, and we want it to come from the heart," said Gary Montel, the CSBOA rules interpreter who lost his wife to cancer more than a decade ago. "Every bit makes a difference."

Montel has become the state's chairman for the annual event, held during the third full week of January action, and he wants to share his passion for living, and giving, after tremendous suffering.

"For me personally, it affected me because I lost my wife," said Montel, who played college basketball at Colorado State and spent a 31-year career as a physical education teacher in Harrison School District 2. "That changed my life. This disease spares nobody. We can do something so maybe someday others won't have to suffer. No donation is too small."