Rivalry raising funds to fight cancer

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The words "Go Blue" written in the sky over Spartan Stadium before last weekend's Michigan State game have sparked a fundraising campaign that's raising thousands of dollars to fight cancer.

AP Photo/Detroit News, Dale G. Young

A skywriter's "Go Blue" message at last week's Michigan State game prompted a Spartans fan to encourage people to donate to the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance.

Scott Westerman, executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, was among the fans at last Saturday's game against Youngstown State who saw the big message -- a reference to one of the colors of Michigan State's in-state rival Michigan.

Westerman, a pilot, estimated it cost someone a few thousand dollars to needle Michigan State fans. In response, Westerman started encouraging people to donate some green online to the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance. It had raised more than $9,000 as of late Tuesday.

"I don't fault the Michigan fan who did it, but it felt like it would make sense to take our rivalry to a more productive level," Westerman told MLive.com. He wants to see how much money Michigan State supporters raise and challenge Michigan alumni to match it.

Westerman's wife, Colleen, is a two-time ovarian cancer survivor who received care at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. The fundraising effort drew so much attention that it froze the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance's PayPal account.

"It couldn't keep up with the donations," Michelle Shepherd, secretary on MiOCA's board of directors, told the Detroit Free Press.

As it turns out, it wasn't a fan that funded the skywriter. Michigan's athletic department paid thousands to Oregon Aero Dancer skywriting, MLive.com confirmed Thursday.

The skywriting company told MLive.com it was paid to put the message in the air above Ann Arbor and East Lansing, while a Michigan athletic department spokesman said only that the school had "hired the skywriters to canvas southeast Michigan with slogans and numbers prior to our game" and that "there were no locations targeted."

The Spartans beat Youngstown State 55-17, but the skywriting came up at Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's weekly news conference Tuesday. He joked that it was a reference to his high school in Zanesville, Ohio, The Detroit News reported.

"Yeah, my high school coach was here, they are the Blue Devils," Dantonio said. "I figured somebody did that for him."

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