Tuesday night’s Gainesville and West Hall girls’ game will have a different air.
It won’t be because a title will be settled with the outcome of the game, a record set or because a famous alumnus is in the building, it’s bigger than that.
Donning pink shoelaces, pink socks and pink ribbons on their jerseys, the girls who take the court Tuesday night will stand for something more than the school they represent.
They’ll be standing and playing in support of the approximately 250,230 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer last year, the 2.5 million breast cancer survivors living in this country and the millions of others who have succumbed to the No. 1 cause of cancer-related deaths among women.
“I was 14-years-old when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Gainesville coach Manson Hill said. “I was 19 when she died.
“I know firsthand what (the disease) does to ladies.”
In 2007 the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association began the WBCA Pink Zone, formerly known as “Think Pink,” as an initiative to raise breast cancer awareness in women’s basketball, on campuses and in communities.
More than 120 schools united for this effort and helped make the inaugural year a success.
In 2008, over 1,200 teams and organizations participated, reaching over 830,000 fans and raising more than $930,000 for breast cancer awareness and research.
Earlier this year, the WBCA lost a past president and founding member in N.C. State coach Kay Yow, to breast cancer.
“I’m a member of the WBCA and that affected me,” Hill said of Yow’s death. “I’d met her several times and she was just a wonderful person.”
In memory of those that have passed and in the hopes of raising the awareness of those around him, Hill made the decision to make Tuesday night a “Think Pink” night at Gainesville High.
“We’re trying to get our girls to understand that there needs to be balance in life,” Hill said. “There’s basketball, but then there’s community and academics.
“We wanted to do something that made the night not just about basketball.”
Donations will be accepted at the game and go towards breast cancer research.
But it isn’t just the money that will make a difference.
It’s the child sitting in the stands who will look at a parent or someone sitting around and ask, “Why does Jaymee Carnes have on pink socks?”
As a person who’s lost a loved one to breast cancer, I hope they don’t just respond but respond with truth.
This year, over 1,250 schools and organizations have committed to participating in the 2009 WBCA Pink Zone.
ESPN has joined the initiative by dedicating their annual “February Frenzy” women’s college basketball games on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com to supporting the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund. “February Frenzy” will showcase eight regionalized games Feb. 15 for the biggest regular season day in women’s college basketball.
Referees will blow pink whistles and teams will wear pink uniforms all in the name of awareness.
“It has been nothing short of miraculous to watch teams and organizations across the nation rally behind the fight against breast cancer,” said WBCA CEO Beth Bass in a press release. “As our coaches constantly reiterate the concept of ‘teamwork’ to student-athletes, it is personified and brought to life through this initiative.”
And brought home by Hill and his Lady Red Elephants who would all say that if going to a Gainesville game isn’t your thing, still take a moment Tuesday to think pink.