Few former players are as closely tied to Pat Summitt as Michelle Marciniak. The former Volunteers point guard helped her team secure the 1996 National Championship, Summitt’s fourth overall and first in a string of three consecutive titles from 1996-98.
Marciniak, a member of the Pat Summitt Foundation advisory board, delivered the eulogy at Summitt’s funeral. She was the first transfer in Tennessee women’s basketball history after playing one season at Notre Dame.
Now Marciniak has once again found a way to remember her former coach and battle Alzheimer’s, the disease that ultimately led to her coach’s death. From Oct. 17-28, she will bike 1,098 miles from Knoxville, Tennessee to Key West, Florida for Summitt. It’s part of a fundraising initiative called “Pedal for Pat” with each rider required to raise $10,000 to take part. The ultimate hope is to help families who have loved ones dealing with Alzheimer’s and one day find a cure for the disease.
Marciniak was always close to her coach, but found it hard to see her as she continued to suffer in her last days. Although it was difficult to watch Summitt suffer, Marciniak ultimately found hope in their last conversation according to ESPN.
“One of the most uncomfortable things I’ve experienced,” Marciniak says, “is carrying on a conversation with someone you love so much, who you’ve known your whole life, and it’s a one-way conversation.”
And yet, as she often did, Summitt surprised Marciniak one last time. After the allotted 20 minutes were up, the caregiver gently told Summitt that her friend Michelle was leaving. For a split second, a flash of Pat Summitt’s Tennessee moxie returned.
“Oh no she’s not,” Summitt barked. “Michelle is staying for lunch.” She asked Marciniak to bless the food. As she did, Summitt lifted her head for a moment to examine the woman before her.
“She looked at me,” Marciniak says, “and she knew I was extremely familiar…”
Marciniak has already raised over $22,000 for her bike ride. You can donate to her cause through Go Fund Me.