College of the Ozarks women’s basketball coach Becky Mullis likes to talk about the family atmosphere surrounding the program.

It’s not just lip service. Members of the team – led by junior Abby Oliver – are making sure of that.

Spurred by Oliver’s idea, members of the Lady Bobcats are hosting a garage sale to help the families of two players who are going through medical crises.

Kyra Hardesty, a sophomore guard from Washington, Missouri, is mourning the loss of her mother, Lynn, who died last week from complications from multiple sclerosis.

Sophomore guard Michelle Gabani’s mother, Rachel, is battling gioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. She had her second surgical procedure recently.

Enter Oliver, who came up with the idea for a garage sale, with the proceeds to be split between the Hardesty and Gabani families.

It is set for a 7 a.m. start on Saturday, at 601 S. 5th Street in Branson. The garage sale is expected to go until noon, or until buyers stop coming.

“It was all Abby Oliver’s idea,” Mullis said. “She talked to her teammates and they all jumped on board. It’s completely player-led.”

Anyone in the community is welcome to contribute items for the sale, by contacting Mullis in the women’s basketball office to arrange for the items to be picked up or delivered.

That her teammates came up with the plan didn’t shock Gabani, but it clearly means the world to the sophomore from Bolivar.

“I was in my dorm room,” Gabani said, “and Abby just said, ‘OK, I have to tell you something’ and she let me know what was going on. I’m not surprised that they are doing this, because they are very caring and giving to each other.

“The girls, especially, we see each other as sisters. Our family is their family, and we just take care of each other.”

Hardesty sat out last season as a redshirt after suffering a knee injury. She is moved by the fact that Mullis won’t be attending the garage sale — instead, the C of O coach will be participating in a Bike MS event to raise money in the fight to find a cure.

It isn’t the first Bike MS event Mullis has a part of, since Hardesty’s mother was diagnosed.

“It’s really amazing,” Hardesty said. “Last year, it started for me with my mom and everything. They have been so supportive and loving, and to me and Michelle both. They have been so helpful with everything that we’ve gone through.

“They definitely are like my family from home. I know I can go to them with anything, and they are just awesome.”

After the idea came to fruition, Mullis had to make sure it wouldn’t break any NAIA rules. It wasn’t a difficult process.

“They were easy to work with,” she said. “We asked if it was legal, and it is. Basically, we’re not doing anything that we wouldn’t do for any other student.”

For Mullis, it is all about the family atmosphere she has helped to continue to build with the program after playing for, then coaching under and eventually taking over for, George Wilson.

Last fall, there was an alumni game to honor the memory of and raise funds for a scholarship in the name of Angela Mallonee Garbee, a close friend and former teammate of Mullis who died in May of 2018 after battling brain cancer.

“I’ve reflected a lot about this,” Mullis said. “We have alumni wanting to help. It just reminds me that we just take care of our own. It really is a family atmosphere here. When we recruit players, we tell them that it’s about more than basketball. This shows it.

“It shows you their character, their big hearts and the servant leadership. It makes me really proud.”

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