Treasure Valley employers have gone pink. Theyre getting behind their workers efforts to raise money for breast cancer research, awareness, prevention and treatment.
Organizations from Northwest Nazarene Universitys baseball team which donated about $1,000 to the St. Lukes Mountain States Tumor Institute this year to help families battling all types of cancer to Les Bois Credit Union are rallying money and in-kind support with the backing of their higher-ups.
Most of the time, the effort is driven by personal stories. With about 20 of every 100,000 women in Idaho dying of breast cancer in recent years, and about 120 of every 100,000 fighting it, the cancer is a devastating reality for many Idahoans. That connection drives the most unlikely crews to deep involvement in breast cancer fundraising. Even cowboys.
BLINGING AGAINST BREAST CANCER
Keeley Wilson tears up when she thinks about the grandmother she lost to breast cancer when she was 12 years old.
I felt that nobody should have to do that, says Wilson, an electrical designer for MotivePower Inc. in Boise.
When she started her job at MotivePower about 10 years ago, she did the annual Susan G. Komen fundraising walk by herself. Then she approached Mark Warner, vice president, and asked whether she could put together a company team.
He has backed us 100 percent ever since, she says. Its snowballed every year.
Wilson and her four core co-organizers hosted their first real fundraising event this year, a week before Mothers Day in a Meridian parking lot. Called Bling Your Bra, they decorated bras in different themes and auctioned them off. They held a raffle, took donations and sold T-shirts. Musicians played in the background. It didnt hurt that some of Wilsons male co-workers modeled the bras.
Weve done fundraising, done collecting money $5 or $10 but that doesnt work, she says. What works is getting people involved. ... Theyre having fun, and theyll reach into their pockets.
They raised about $3,000. Wilson plans to triple that next year. She hopes to move the event to a high-traffic Downtown Boise location.
Support from Warner has fueled the effort, she says. He gave the organizers $1,000 this year to buy T-shirts and prizes for the breast cancer walk, and he and other executives usually join in for the walk, Wilson says.
With the recession and everything else going on, we were overjoyed that he still gave us that support, she says. Were so grateful that he gives us that out of his budget every year.
REAL MEN WEAR PINK
The Caldwell Night Rodeo has been doing pink-themed events for nearly a decade, according to George Combs, marketing manager. A rodeo directors wife started a Power of Pink Walk about five years ago in memory of another directors wife who had died in the 1990s. The event raised more than $7,000 this year, and its gone from 14 participants to more than 200 in five years, Combs says.
Before that, the rodeo did a Power of Pink Night in partnership with the Wrangler Corp. Eventually it became a locally organized event in partnership with the Saint Alphonsus and West Valley medical centers. The rodeo has raised more than $250,000 for the hospitals to provide mammograms and breast-cancer screenings to women who cant afford them or dont have health insurance.
It came full circle, he says, when a rodeo directors sister couldnt afford a mammogram. She applied for a free screening, was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through treatment, Combs says. She kind of was our spokesperson a year ago, he says.
The rodeos fundraising supports mammograms through West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell and Saint Alphonsus Health System. The rodeos fund has also helped others donate. Kuna High Schools varsity boys soccer team donated more than $2,300 last year to the rodeos Power of Pink Fund and donated again last month.
GOING PINK OR GOING HOME
Homecoming is always a big week, but it took on extra importance for Middleton High School about four years ago. A teachers wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the girls volleyball team and their coach decided to give the family some support.
The effort started small, but in just a few years it has exploded into a weeklong event. At the various Homecoming games volleyball, soccer and football the school will honor breast cancer victims and survivors during halftime or between games. They conduct silent auctions at the games and sell T-shirts. The organizers last year gave special recognition during the football game to the teachers wife, Karla Brown, who lost her battle with cancer. They made a $3,000 donation to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Idaho affiliate in her name.
The schools leadership class, made up of juniors and seniors, has taken up the event as a service project.
I was all for more help! says Lori Thornton, the volleyball coach and social studies teacher who helped create the event.
Now the core team putting together the event has 15 to 20 students, two or three faculty members and four or five coaches. This years theme is Go Pink or Go Home, riffing on the breast cancer awareness color and the Homecoming week.
During the schools breast cancer awareness week, four groups of guys sang and danced. Students will vote for their favorite groups by donating money, which will be given to the local Susan G. Komen affiliate.
The students plan to build a giant pink ribbon out of small honoraria theyre selling for $1 each. It will hang in the gym.
Everybody is always really supportive about the event, both from the administration and the (school) district, Thornton says. For example, the school must have liability insurance to protect itself and the Komen affiliate in case theres a problem.
Administrators also donate personal items for the fundraisers, she says.
This year, breast cancer still casts a shadow over the school. One staff member is fighting it, and others are affected through family members and friends. But the students, coaches, athletes, administrators and teachers hope their Homecoming Week efforts will make it harder for that shadow to stick around.
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448