Brett Doucette was 2 when he developed a deadly form of leukemia. The year was 1975, a particularly harrowing time for such a diagnosis.
Five-year survival rates were low. Advanced treatment was fledgling. And research funding moved at a snail’s pace — the latter directly impacting the former.
Brett’s father, longtime Milwaukee Bucks TV announcer Eddie Doucette, resolved to do something about it. And he knew exactly who to turn to for help: Bucks player Jon McGlocklin.
A Franklin native and former Indiana University star, McGlocklin was winding down an 11-NBA career when he was approached by Doucette to help launch a charity to raise money and awareness for childhood blood cancers and blood disorders.
An iconic figure in Wisconsin renowned as much for his altruistic spirit as his “rainbow jumper,” McGlocklin did more than sign on. He made the growing charity — Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, otherwise known as the MACC Fund — his life’s mission.
Nearly 40 years later, it still is.
‘The Original Buck’
McGlocklin is not only the MACC Fund’s president, and has been from the beginning, he is its most visible — and active — fundraiser. The charity has given nearly $54 million to research centers and continues to grow.
“It’s been a labor of love for me,” said McGlocklin, a former Bucks’ All-Star who has been a TV announcer since retiring from the NBA in 1976. “It’s a heart thing.”
McGlocklin’s heart has been with the MACC Fund since 1976, when it was co-founded with Eddie Doucette, only months after Brett was diagnosed with leukemia.
At the time, Eddie Doucette was the TV voice of the Bucks, and McGlocklin was about to retire as a player. Both men were iconic figures in Wisconsin, Doucette for his charismatic style, and McGlocklin for his widespread popularity with fans.
Milwaukee was an expansion team in 1968. Doucette was hired as the first announcer, and McGlocklin was the first player signed, earning the sobriquet, “The Original Buck.” But before long, he would have a new nickname, courtesy of Doucette, and the MACC Fund would richly benefit because of it.
Doucette famously coined nicknames for Milwaukee players and wasted no time coming up with one for McGlocklin, an All-Star in 1969 and a starting guard alongside Oscar Robertson on the 1971 NBA championship team. The Original Buck was now “Jonny Mac.”
By the time Eddie approached McGlocklin about forming the charity, Jonny Mac was (and still is) a household name in Wisconsin. To enhance its identity, Doucette tied it to McGlocklin’s name by calling it the MACC Fund.
On the night of Dec. 10, 1976, — the same night McGlocklin announced his retirement from the NBA — the MACC Fund was launched. McGlocklin was and still is the president. Doucette, who is 83, retired from broadcasting and living Poway, California, is the honorary vice president.
Neither man envisioned the longevity and eventual global impact of the MACC Fund.
“I never tried to see it that way. I’m not that kind of visionary,” said McGlocklin, who lives in suburban Milwaukee and still broadcasts home games. “I felt it was God-driven.”
Doucette, who broadcast Bucks’ games for 16 years — including seven alongside McGlocklin — feels the same way. And he credits McGlocklin for the charity’s growth and success, which in turn has helped dramatically improved survival rates for victims of pediatric cancer.
When the MACC Fund was established, cure rates were about 20 percent. Today, they are about 80 percent.
“It’s been a magnificent contribution to mankind, and a wonderful legacy for my family and Jon’s family, and for my son,” Doucette said. “He’s 42.”
Brett Doucette not only won his battle with leukemia, he now has the children doctors declared he would likely never have because of the intense radiation treatments he received nearly 40 years ago.
Other athletes help out
Enhancing survival rates and eventually finding a cure are what the MACC Fund, which supports a host of research hospitals in Wisconsin, is all about. And it’s why McGlocklin devotes more time to it than ever before.
Having divested himself of his business interests eight years ago and having cut back on Bucks broadcasts (he no longer does road games), he attends many of the 70 to 90 fundraising events the MACC Fund conducts each year across the state — from school events that might raise $50 to $100 to golf outings that might raise several thousand to an annual bike ride, the Trek 100 Ride for Hope, which might raise $1 million or more.
“I’m out there trying to drum up anything I can,” McGlocklin said. “I try to go to a lot of events. I try to get in front of people of means to write us checks, to have events, to get me to other people. That’s what I do.
“I’ve been blessed to go where my heart was and contribute more time and effort.”
Throughout the decades, the MACC Fund, which has a full-time staff of four and a host of volunteers, has gotten a lift from well-known sports figures throughout the Midwest. But perhaps none has provided a bigger lift than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He reached out to the charity several years ago and has been one of its chief supporters.
Recently appearing on Celebrity Jeopardy, Rodgers won the first $50,000 first prize and donated it to the MACC Fund.
“He contacted us,” McGlocklin said. “He’s probably helped us raise nearly $2 million himself, doing events with him through different things that he brings attention to.
“He’s all in with the MACC Fund, so that’s helped statewide and even nationally.”
A cure is the goal
Although athletes like Rodgers have contributed mightily to the fund’s success, Doucette insists most — if not all — of the credit goes to his longtime friend and former broadcast partner, Jonny Mac.
“He’s been the president since day one has done a wonderful job,” said Doucette, who broadcast Indiana Pacers games in the early 1980s. “He has done a miraculously wonderful job. I think it’s important that people understand what Jon has done. He’s a humanitarian.
“I’d like to think that I am, too, but he’s that, and then some.”
Jonny Mac, who averaged 11.6 points per game during his 11-year NBA career, doesn’t necessarily see it that way. He saw a cause, saw a way to help, and plans to see it through until he no longer can or until there’s no longer a need.
A cure is the ultimate objective.
“That’s the important result of the money,” McGlocklin said. “We’ve got cure rates of 20 percent 39 years ago to over 80 percent today, and improved protocols and treatments. But we’re still losing too many kids. It’s still an (ongoing) process in trying to keep kids alive. We’ve got to get to the point where we can prevent cancer, like with polio. Cancer’s much more complex.
“There are about 13 forms of childhood cancer, and of those 13, there’s thousands of derivatives. So how do you attack all that? That’s what the researchers do. It’s where our money goes.”
ABOUT THE MACC FUND
What: Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer
Established: 1976 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Founders: Jon McGlocklin and Eddie Doucette
President: Jon McGlocklin
Honorary vice president: Eddie Doucette
Full-time staff: Four
Money raised: Fund has contributed nearly $54 million to childhood cancer and blood disorder research; about 80 percent of all money raised goes directly to research
MACC Fund supports: The Medical College of Wisconsin; Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin; the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center; The MACC Fund Pediatric Cancer Research Wing.
Cancer fact: Childhood cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death in children after the newborn period.
Source: The MACC Fund