From the moment fans entered the Spartan Arena on Feb. 10, instantly something looked different. Employees were donned in pink apparel ranging from pants to headbands and each seat turned into an anchor for pink and white balloons. Even the player’s jerseys were pink.
The Castleton State College women’s hockey game last Wednesday was not only in a battle against Norwich, but against breast cancer. This is the first year the team has held a game specifically to raise money for breast cancer, but the concept is far from foreign within Spartan athletics.
“Basketball was the first sport to hold a game for breast cancer eight years ago. After that more sports teams held games in support of breast cancer, including football. Currently, six teams participate in these events and it’s something we plan to continue every year,” Associate Dean of Athletics Deanna Tyson explains.
For this game, the women’s hockey team partnered with Rutland Regional Medical Center. The hospital paid for all of the advertisements around the community. It also bought pink jerseys for the players, which were later auctioned online.
The average jersey went for $150 dollars, with the price ranging from $115 to $300. Karen Sanborn, director of the Media Center, also made scarves, mittens, gloves, and headbands which were donated to raise money.
Castleton State College President David Wolk also attended the “Pink the Rink” game, sporting a baby pink and white scarf.
“I’m incredibly proud of the players, coaches, parents, and the fans. They raised so much money and more importantly, raised awareness. It just warms my heart that they’re doing the right thing,” he said through a wide-eyed grin.
Laureen Eddy and Tameron Harbell both work for the Breast Care program of the Foley Cancer Center at Rutland Regional Medical Center. Both said that through these events, a great deal of awareness is raised in the community.
“One in eight women and one percent of men will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Events like these as well as word of mouth help educate people,” Eddy said.
When asked if working with cancer patients ever dampened her spirits, Harbell quickly shook her head no. “Women who’ve had breast cancer are some of the most inspiring women I’ve met,” she said.
On the far end of the arena at the top of the stands sat six such women. Some brought their husbands along, but all of them came together.
All of their cheeks were canvases for the painted on symbolic pink ribbon.
All of these women wore at least one pink colored article of clothing.
All of these women had breast cancer.
“I breastfed, I watched what I ate, didn’t drink too much, didn’t smoke, exercised, had a mammogram regularly, and I still got breast cancer,” explained Ellen Wakker. Her voice was, calm as if talking about the weather.
Wakker, Sheila Bowley and the four other women are all members of a women’s only cancer support group called Women 2 Women. The group’s main focus is to emotionally support other women who have cancer at any stage.
“The occurrence of breast cancer is becoming more common in young women, even in their 20s,” Bowley stated.
“It’s almost become an epidemic,” Wakker added sternly.
At the end of the night, Norwich won by a final score of 2-0. The announcer proclaimed that the team raised more than $6,000 and she thanked everyone for coming. Every person in the crowd cheered as if the Spartans had claimed a victory. But the Spartans were not competing for accolades or titles. They were competing for the thousands of men and women fighting for their lives and President Wolk could not have been prouder.
“I have a lot of friends who have breast cancer, who’ve survived breast cancer, or who might not have survived. I think we’re all touched by cancer in one way or another through our family and friends,” Wolk revealed. “The good news about it is that we’ve raised public consciousness about breast cancer so it’s not a taboo topic anymore.