Irish Wear Pink to Promote Breast Cancer Awareness

As part of a Breast Cancer Awareness Month initiative known as the “Pink Sock Promise,” students at Notre Dame High School will each wear one pink sock, with the matching sock from each pair being worn by a woman important to the individual student.

By David Nugent, Rider University

These socks may do more than just keep your feet warm. They may end up saving your life.

As part of a Breast Cancer Awareness Month initiative known as the “Pink Sock Promise,” students at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence Township tomorrow (Oct. 24) will each wear one pink sock, with the matching sock from each pair being worn by a woman important to the individual student.

“By wearing one pink sock on Oct. 24, [the] women are promising to conduct breast self-exams and schedule breast screenings regularly,” said Ryan Chamberlain, a Notre Dame alumnus who works as a community relations specialist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton. The hospital is sponsoring the initiative.

Wearing mismatched socks is an obvious way to call attention to the cause, Chamberlain explained.

“Imagine a mom going to work wearing one pink sock. You can bet her co-workers will notice – a perfect opportunity for that mom to explain that she made a promise to her daughter to conduct breast self-exams and schedule clinical breast screenings regularly.”

In preparation for tomorrow’s “Pink Out Day,” students gathered in the Notre Dame cafeteria after school last Thursday (Oct. 18) to dye 1,320 socks pink.

“Sometimes teenagers get a bad rap,” said Joan Pilkington, Notre Dame’s vice principal for student life.  “[People] don’t see them like this.  We work with them every day. The boys are involved as well. Men are victims of breast cancer as well.”

RWJ Hamilton and Notre Dame teamed up because the hospital wanted to launch a new public awareness campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Chamberlain sits on the Notre Dame Board of Governor’s Marketing Committee.

Chamberlain was in a meeting when he noticed students wearing shorts and high tube socks. That was how the “Pink Sock Promise” was born, he said.

Judy Salcewicz, Notre Dame’s service-learning coordinator, said she was contacted by Chamberlain to see if students might be interested in working with the hospital.

“Breast cancer was already an important cause at Notre Dame,” said Salcewicz. “We have [an annual] ‘Pink Out’ where everyone wears pink shirts to [a football game]. The socks were a natural addition to that.  We have an Irish Goes Pink Club that makes gift bags for people going through chemotherapy. It was just a natural step to what we already doing.”

The fourth annual “Pink Out” football game will take place on Friday (Oct. 26) when Notre Dame hosts Allentown.

Members of the football team will each wear a pink sock during the game. Pink ribbons will be distributed and breast cancer survivors will be invited onto the field during halftime.

There will also be a banner upon which members of the Notre Dame community can write the names of loved ones affected by cancer, said Salcewicz.

“This event is about showing respect and raising awareness for breast cancer,” said William McCullough, freshman soccer player. 

Cheerleading coach Diane Wargo is working with the school’s cheerleaders on a hair donation campaign.  Many of the girls plan to have at least six inches cut from their manes and donated to make wigs for cancer patients.

Among the students on hand last week to dye the socks was Lauren Sander, a member of the honors religion class.

She said the motto of the “Pink Sock Promise”is: “Wear one, share one.”

When Sander was a child, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said many of the details were kept from her because she was young, but now she has a greater understanding of what her mom went through.

“It makes you a lot stronger,” she said. “It makes your family stronger.”

Sander said she knows of other relatives and friends whose families are also battling cancer.

“A lot of her friends have gone through it,” Sander said, referring to her mother.  “A good friend of mine’s mother had a double mastectomy. She’s gone through it several times.  They do walks [to support breast cancer research]. My boyfriend’s mother has done walks.”

Pilkington hopes the efforts by students today will have a big payoff in the future.

“These young people care enough to do activities such as this, to host a ‘Pink Out’ for people they don’t know and will never know,” she said. “My hope is that their children, because of their effort as young people, will not have to go through what cancer patients go through [now].”

Pilkington and Brenda Riley, Notre Dame’s director of communications, are two of five current faculty members who are breast cancer survivors. Pilkington is a seven-year survivor and Riley is a 2½-year survivor.

“I am very grateful for every day and very moved by the student involvement and their dedication,” said Riley.

Riley has participated in other events to draw awareness to the fight against breast cancer. She said her participation in a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event at Great Adventure was very special because her family participated. Her 9-year-old grandson, Tim, made the banner for their team. 

Notre Dame students are also working with Chamberlain to produce a 30- to 60-second breast cancer awareness public service announcement that will be available for viewing on social media outlets such as YouTube and Facebook.


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