Mahler: Wear Your Pink
You don’t have to be a basketball fan to appreciate what will be happening tonight in the Rivendell gym.
But don’t take my word for it; go on up there yourself tonight and see first hand what happens when a few caring people put their hearts and minds together to make a difference.
You always hear about how athletes are so self-centered, how athletics is such a negative drain on resources. Don’t believe what you hear. Believe what you see, instead.
And when you walk into that gym and see that sea of pink shirts, ribbons and banners, tell me it won’t make your eyes fill red with tears. Because right there, in front of your eyes is the definition of community and commitment.
Oh it will be a basketball game, I promise you. And it will be a spirited and competitive 32 minutes of local rivalry. But it will be much more than that. Rivendell and South Royalton may be the competitors, but the bigger opponent this night is cancer.
Just look around you at the color of the day: Everyone will be wearing pink. Players, coaches, fans, officials. It might be Rivendell’s home game, but the night belongs to the community at large that got behind this project of cancer awareness and turned it into a slam dunk.
As of game time, 2,000 pink ‘Find the Cure’ T-shirts have been sold around Vermont. At South Royalton, where AD Jeff Moreno started the drive a year ago, the community has purchased 500 shirts. At Rivendell, 300; at Chelsea 200; at Randloph 200; at Whitcomb another 100. Even out of the area, Twinfield has purcased 200 shirts.
“It’s a great opportunity to teach and it’s a great opportunity to do good with that lesson,” said Moreno, who is also the boys basketball coach. “When we played Rivendell earlier in the year, it was the most incredible evening I had ever experienced as a coach. Now we lost, and that didn’t make me happy, but everyone got it.
“Everyone understood there was a bigger thing going on.”
Moreno knows first hand. So does Rivendell AD Bob Thatcher. Both their wives are cancer survivors. And that’s what tonight is all about — celebrating the survivors, comforting the ailing and informing the public. “Anyone wearing a pink T-shirt gets in for free,” said Thatcher, tonight’s host.
At Thatcher’s request, one of the state’s top officials, Gary Lavin, will be on hand to work the game tonight. What makes that so special is that Lavin is a cancer survivor, just now rounding back into form.
“This is such a wonderful activity,” said Thatcher. “Both teams are arch rivals; they’ll be going at each other hard. But they know that there’s more important things in life than sports.”
The idea for this project began last year after Moreno’s wife, Kim, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Royalton Athletic Leadership Council took it upon themselves to make their pink statement. They sold T-shirts in school and around the community. Last spring, they handed the Norris Cotton Cancer Center a check for $2,000.
The momentum from last year carried over. More T-shirts were ordered, more schools became involved.
At the event in South Royalton last month, they raised $1,501. “People came from all over the state,” said Moreno. “Ive never seen the schools so unified. People from all over have embraced this.”
Moreno recalled a letter written to the Chelsea athletic director from a former graduate. “She was a cancer survivor and was just so overjoyed to see what they were doing at Chelsea,” said Moreno. “She said, ‘you are saving lives, and I’m pround of my alma mater.’ ”
Sometime this spring Moreno plans another trip to the Norris Cotton Center. This time the check presented will be substantially larger than last year. “I’d say right now we have raised almost $10,000,” said Moreno. “It’s a great way for the school, the community and the kids to see what can happen when you wear the same color.”
Prior to the varsity game tonight, Moreno and Thatcher will oversee a small ceremony. The jayvee game is scheduled to start at 5:30 followed by the varsity around 7 p.m. But remember, the basketball game is merely the vehicle. Tonight is about commitment to the present and hope for the future.
And it all comes wrapped up in a pink T-shirt. So get your color on and join the party.
Don Mahler can be reached at email@example.com. or 603-727-3225.