Siena College is “going pink” on Friday, Jan. 20, for the women’s basketball team’s 12th Pink Zone game to support breast cancer awareness.
“We’d love to have people come out and support this event,” said Joan Sheehan, president of CRAAB!, the organization that benefits from the game.
Players will wear custom made pink and white uniforms, pink t-shirts will be distributed to some fans at the door, pink and white pom poms will be given out and all fans are encouraged to wear pink in support.
Coach Gina Castelli started the Pink Zone game 12 years ago when a former science professor at the college, Pat Brown, told her about the organization she was involved in founding: Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer.
“We had a great turnout at that time. We had at least 1,500 to 2,000 people that came to the game,” said Castelli.
That experimental event focused mostly on educating attendees about breast cancer and how CRAAB! could help. Since then, it’s taken on a life of its own.
“We’ve kept it going and it just got bigger and bigger,” said Castelli, who formed a steering committee a few years ago to get the community more involved.
The steering committee found various local businesses interested in sponsoring or helping with the game and also helped raise community awareness for the game, which raised more money.
Last year, the team raised $20,650 for CRAAB! and this year the goal is $25,000.
“Now we’re just trying to raise more money. Every year we try to up it and raise the level,” said Castelli.
Perhaps a reason for the game’s increased success and popularity each year is the light it shines on breast cancer survivors.
“Prior to the game we recognize breast cancer survivors, so all our players and coaching staff bring out a survivor and announce their name, how long they’ve been a survivor, and that in itself is inspirational and motivational,” said Castelli, who said survivors range from five months to 25 years cancer free. “There are many more survivors in the stands. We have a great following, great fan support.”
Sheehan said the yearly game is invaluable and is a critical source of funding for CRAAB!.
“It’s very important to us. This is a major event that we have,” said Sheehan. “With declining funds … this definitely supplements the money that we would have possibly received.”
It also plays a big part in humanizing breast cancer within the community.
“It allows us to be in the spotlight because women today are living with the fact that they had breast cancer, living with the side effects, but they are moving ahead in their life and by highlighting the survivors it puts a face on breast cancer to the fans that attend,” said Sheehan.
CRAAB! is a grassroots breast cancer organization and provides a bevy of services to affected women, many free of charge.
“We have so many exercise classes that we do—yoga in three locations, Pilates, healthy steps which we do in partnership with Hope Club. We have medical massage in your home, nutrition and exercise,” said Sheehan. “That all falls under support. We do educational programs and advocacy work. That fulfills a need in the community.”
Brown, who was one of the first female professors at Siena, had an unmatched passion for CRAAB! and that’s what Castelli said drives her to continue the Pink Zone game each year.
“It was because of Pat Brown,” said Castelli. “I really enjoyed talking to her about it and the passion she had behind it.”
Castelli said she makes sure her players understand not only the importance of the game itself but the importance of understanding what it supports: breast cancer.
“That first year I had my team go to a class on breast cancer, preventative things we needed to know,” said Castelli. “Before the game I try to impress upon our players that the actual breast cancer night is much bigger than the game. When we’re bringing out the survivors to feel good about what they’re doing but also be proud of … what this woman has gone through.”
New this year will be Power Up The Pink awards, given to someone in the business, school and medical communities who has given back in some way. President of New York Oncology Hematology Dr. Nini Wu, Rumors Salon and Day Spa founders Marri Aviza and Lisa Norgrove and Siena College student Nicole Cochetti will be honored.
The game is held in the Alumni Recreation Center. For more information about the Pink Zone game or to purchase tickets, visit www.sienasaints.com/pinkzone or contact Laura Menges at [email protected] or 782-6769. For more information about CRAAB! Visit www.craab.org.