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November 22, 2011
By: John Raffel

Think Pink, Dig for a Cure...Athletes promote cancer awareness




John Raffel 

Sports Scene

October was a special month for high school athletic programs to promote cancer awareness. It was not unusual to see pink themes at sporting events around the area.

Think Pink” was a common phrase.  Not not only did athletes wear pink, but there also were two swimming teams that actually swam in pink water.

Joann Spry, St. Louis athletic director, notes that her school is very active in cancer awareness.

We hosted the 'Dig Pink' volleyball game between St. Louis Sharks and Breckenridge Huskies,” she said. “Both teams wore pink, and we sold t-Shirts. Anyone wearing the pink t-shirts got in free. All proceeds for the night, including a silent auction, donations for seat cushions, 50/50 raffle, and ticket sales were donated back to the local cancer center.”

The volleyball teams, plus their coaches, many students, and staff members participated in the activity.

This is a very positive event between the two communities, and annually we switch hosting and keep the theme going year to year,” Spry said. “This event was supported by all teams, and it was positive to see so many of our athletes attend this game and wear the pink shirts to school, not just those involved in volleyball.”

Bob Wellman, athletic director of H.H. Dow High School, noted that his volleyball program had its annual "Volley-for-a-Cure" to raise awareness of breast cancer.

“They hold a silent auction, receive donations from local businesses, sell t-shirts, which if you purchase a t-shirt, that gets you into the game for free and play a game of volleyball,” Wellman said. “This year, they raised over $7,000.”

All three of Dow's volleyball team and their opponents wore pink jerseys.

This generates a lot of enthusiasm with the girls as well as the student body that participates in the events,” Wellman said.

At Pewamo-Westphalia, Todd Simmons said that the high school had a cancer awareness football game and ceremony October 14 against Saint Patrick High School.  There were halftime candle ceremonies for family members “to remember those who are surviving cancer and those who are battling or have lost the battle.”

Kurt Hofmeister of Valley Lutheran said his school does a “cancer awareness” event, although there was nothing scheduled for the fall.

When we do a 'cancer awareness' event, the players generally feel blessed by the health they enjoy, but just about every one of them knows of someone who has or had cancer,” Hofmeister said. “It’s an opportunity to count our blessings and pray for those who are struggling. Baseball team does it in the spring (, and basketball does a 'coaches vs. cancer' night in the winter.”

Central Montcalm athletic director director John Kearney and his volleyball program had a "Pink Night," working with the sports boosters. The football team had a "pink out" game October 14 against Chippewa Hills.

The varsity and junior varsity wore pink shirts for the games against Reed City and Hesperia,” Kearney said. “We informed the two schools, and Reed City also wore pink shirts in their games at our place. It makes our students aware of cancer and how it can affect many people, especially individuals close to some athletes.”

Owosso athletic director Dallas Lintner indicated that "Dig Pink" week starts with a volleyball invitational on October 15 and ends with a varsity football game on October 21.

“All events at OHS are incorporating the color pink into their contests, whether it is pink socks, pink swim caps, pink ribbons on the football/soccer field, or pink ball hats on coaches,” Linter said, adding that a home swim meet vs. Mason on October 20 was scheduled to be conducted in a pool of pink water. 

“Our students will be gaining awareness about breast cancer and breast cancer research, and our spectators will see important information and statistics related to breast cancer and research in our printed programs for the week.

“We have set up a fundraiser account through the Side Out Foundation,, with a targeted fundraising goal of $5,000.  Each year at our volleyball invitational, there are other teams that have raised funds in their home schools and bring a check with their donation to our collective fundraising efforts. The girls from all participating schools are celebrated for their efforts.”

The activity serves as a valuable educational tool, Linter said, adding that  it provides “increased awareness of breast cancer and research. Our students realize a heightened sense of belonging by working to contribute to a worthy cause that affects people in our own community and across the nation.”

Rich Kimball, athletic director at Lansing Catholic, Central, noted, as did some of his fellow athletic directors, that volleyball is a key sport for "Think Pink."

We have chosen girls volleyball and breast cancer research for our cancer focus,” he said. “We just completed year three. While we don’t have final numbers for this year yet, in the fall of 2010 we presented a check to Sparrow Hospital for $1000.

“We provide our team and the visiting team at the varsity, JV, and frosh level with special pink t-shirts to wear at the game. The shirts then are kept by each player. It raises cancer awareness in our school and especially among our female volleyball players. We have a lot of support for this night each year.”

"Think Pink" is also a critical activity at Alma, athletic director Eric Huff said. The volleyball team has a home "Dig Pink" match October 26 against Hemlock.

“It helps raise awareness, plus it is a great opportunity for our volleyball team to play in front of a large crowd,” he said. 

"Think Pink" is also a major activity at Bath High School, said volleyball coach Kristen McIntyre.  “Volley For Cure" events were conducted on October 3 with the middle school teams and on October 6 with the high school teams.

We asked each volleyball player in the program to get one $25 donation for the Susan G Komen Foundation,” McIntyre said. “The girls asked business from the Bath community and the surrounding area. Through our donation collection, we were able to collect $1,300. We also purchased pink t-shirts and sold them with the entire list of sponsors' names on them. In addition, we had two banners made with the sponsors' names and hung them in the gymnasium.”

It was definitely a Pink Night.  The night of the matches, we had the gymnasium decorated in pink,” McIntyre said. “We had pink programs, free pink stickers, and candy. We also gave out skin tattoos for a donation. We had pink lanyards for the officials as well a pink t-shirt. At the high school, between sets 2 and 3 of the varsity match, for $1 fans could get 3 serves to try and win a prize. Many of the prizes had been donated by local businesses. From the serve and donations, we were able to collect another $100.”

On both nights, the Bath volleyball players wore pink. The Fowler varsity team also wore pink.

"It was awesome to see all the pink in the gym that night. This was a great opportunity for the Bath volleyball program.  The girls were excited to go out and ask for donations. The night of the contest, the players were pumped up and focused. It was a great motivator for the players.”

"Volley for the Cure" nights are popular events in Bath and at other high schools.

“The girls really enjoyed this event,” McIntyre said. “This is the first year we have hosted a 'Volley for the Cure.'  It was a lot of fun and for a great cause.  I look forward to hosting another event next year.”

Jill Wrzesinski at Coleman noted that her school has a "pinkout" in late October against Ashley.

“Both teams will be wearing pink jerseys, and t-shirt have been sold to the community and student body to promote breast cancer awareness. All proceeds from the game and shirt sales will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  We will have some shirts available for purchase at the door, but so far we have sold 261 shirts,” she said.

Football is another sport that is a strong promoter of "Think Pink," as athletic director Larry Farmer of Carson City-Crystal pointed out.

 At CC-C's event, “each football player is going to wear a pink jersey that has a name on the back of the jersey,” Farmer said . “Those players that have lost a loved one to a battle of cancer or have a loved one that survived a battle of cancer has that person's name on the back of their jersey. The players are playing to honor those loved ones. Coaches are wearing pink hoodies with loved ones on the back of their hoodie.

Players are also wearing pink socks, the field will have a pink ribbon at midfield, the band is selling pink t-shirts, etc. At the end of the game, the players that are playing for someone will have the opportunity to present their jersey to that person as a keepsake. Our football program volunteers at Carson City Hospital with their "Pink Ribbon Affair," which helps raise funds for the cancer survivorship program and breast health program at Carson City Hospital.

Over 600 community members attended the event last fall. Our football players help with escorting cancer survivors.”

This cause has a direct impact on our sports program due to the fact that so many have a loved one that has experienced cancer, and our student-athletes and coaches take great honor in being able to pay tribute to those people,” he said. “It is our way of showing support, and it helps set priorities for our student-athletes and shows them that giving back to others and honoring others is a part of being a complete student-athlete.”

St. Louis football coach Paul Reid agrees. 

For the football team, it is an individual effort by the boys,” he said. “Some wear socks, some wear under armor, or some choose a towel or shoelaces. The boys like to bring awareness to such a sensitive subject.”