Making a Difference One Three-Pointer at a Time


Jack Gambassi

University of Utah’s head coach Lynne Roberts after the NCAA Women’s basketball game vs. the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on campus in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Abbey Thomas, Sports Editor


When the Utah women’s basketball head coach Lynne Roberts came to Utah, connecting with the university and the Salt Lake City community was on the forefront of her priorities. Now in her eighth year at the U, Roberts has built a powerful fan base and has used her expertise to craft a championship-level team. But aside from the impressive athletics, the head coach felt compelled to do more — to give back to the community.

“My family and I, we’re all transplants here,” Roberts said. “We’re not from here, but we love this place. And that makes you want to give back, and we were trying to think, you know, ‘How do I have a platform as a coach? Every community has needs, so how can I shed light on those needs and weaknesses?’”

Prior to the start of the 2022 season, Roberts had the idea to start a program that directly involved her team with service. Soon after, Beyond the Paint was born. Every weekend at home during regular season Pac-12 competition, the program would select a charity to help raise awareness about their mission. Each 3-pointer made during the weekend would then be matched by Roberts in the form of a $100 donation. But then came the hard part — deciding which organizations would fill the four available weekend slots.

“I talked to Governor [Spencer] Cox and Abby Cox, as well as Mayor Erin Mendenhall to see — what are the real needs that I don’t know?” Roberts said. “What’s really going on? So it was really about my heart for things and getting help from those in the community.”

Eventually, through her own research and the help of her administrative team, the different options were narrowed down to the desired four: first up, the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge, followed by Show Up Utah: Unified Sports, the Food Justice Coalition and the Utah Food Bank. Each one highlights a pressing issue in Salt Lake County, and all do invaluable work in their respective causes.

In Utah, 407 individuals for every 100,000 are fighting some kind of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Mortality rates from this illness are shown to be higher in rural areas, which could be in part due to further proximity to healthcare. The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge communities provide free accommodations to cancer patients and their families who are traveling long distances to receive medical care, helping to relieve some of the stress associated with extensive treatment times.

Next, Roberts chose to support Show Up Utah: Unified Sports, which pairs up individuals with and without intellectual disabilities to participate on the same sports teams to help foster new friendships and empathy.

The women’s basketball team had the opportunity to participate in the Show Up Utah program earlier this year in a day of shooting hoops at Murray High School with the Unified Sports’ team. The team joined the game, put on by Abby Cox, to help Unified Sports facilitate an environment of inclusion and to help reduce some of the stigma that still surrounds some of these issues.

For Roberts, Beyond the Paint is about more than just making a few donations at the end of a weekend — it’s also about being hands on.

“Every cause they are involved in, and they do some kind of service because it’s very important to me that they get some perspective and see how blessed they are,” she said. “They’ve got to go out and see, you know, ‘Oh, I may have had a bad night shooting in a basketball game, but is that really the end of the world?’ You could be homeless, you could not have food, so it’s a two-way street.”

The two organizations that would help close out the pilot season of Beyond the Paint are doing a big part in battling food insecurity in Utah.

Over 300,000 people experience food insecurity in this state, with one in nine children facing hunger. The Food Justice Coalition focuses on providing access to healthy foods to those in need while also addressing the main cause behind the issue: wealth inequality. The Utah Food Bank combats the same access-related problems and is responsible for distributing millions of pounds of food to Utahns every year.

Despite only being in its initial testing phase, Beyond the Paint had a successful run during its four weekends in action. By the end of the regular 2022-23 season, the program raised over $6,000 split across the four charities.

“I’d like to grow it,” she said. “This season was more of a trial run, but it raised good money and raised good awareness so I want to continue it. It was great for our team, so we definitely want to continue, that’s the whole point. I think we need to brainstorm what worked and how we can improve it, but that’s the platform we have and we want more people to get involved.”

Roberts also encourages fans attending the games and on social media to visit the websites of each of these organizations, and to donate if they are able. Major societal issues like the ones above can’t be solved overnight, but with the awareness and help of the community, we can all come together to help share the load.


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