Pink Zone

Nearly 700 breast cancer survivors gather on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State during halftime of the Pennsylvania Pink Zone basketball game on Feb. 16. The game honors survivors and raises money for regional and national breast cancer programs.

How do you top bringing together more than 12,000 pink-clad people        – including nearly 700 breast cancer survivors – and raising more than $300,000 for treatment and research?

By beating those numbers the next time – and by attracting folks from a wider geographic area.

Those are the goals set by organizers of the Pennsylvania Pink Zone for 2015, the program’s ninth year.

Efforts will build toward the March 1 Penn State women’s basketball game against Wisconsin.

In February, 12,585 fans packed the Bryce Jordan Center for the eighth Pink Zone game.

Among those attending were 698 breast cancer survivors, all of whom were invited onto the floor at halftime to be recognized.

“The game is a celebratory time for the survivors,” said Miriam Powell, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pink Zone.

“Breast cancer survivors attend the game for free.”

Powell said the goal is always to sell out the 15,000-seat arena on Pink Zone day.

One way to accomplish that goal would be to bring more survivors to Penn State from across the state.

“We would love to have more from the Johnstown area if they haven’t been here before to come,” Powell said.

“If there’s a strong desire for women and their families from that area to come to the game, we can work with them.”

Pink Zone partners with Fullington Trailways, a Centre County bus company, to provide breast cancer survivors with transportation to the game.

Fullington then either handles transportation directly or works with bus companies in other communities to set up travel arrangements, Powell said.

In many cases, breast cancer awareness advocates help connect those wishing to attend the Pink Zone game with local bus companies.

“It’s always great when we can get some volunteers in different areas to organize groups,” Powell said.

“If there’s a need in the Johnstown area, I’m sure they would be able to meet it.”

She said the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel and the Nittany Lion Inn, both on the University Park campus, offer special rates for breast cancer survivors on Pink Zone weekend.

In its eight years, Pink Zone has donated $1,135,317.73 to various regional breast cancer charities.

Currently, funding recipients include Mount Nittany Medical Center (State College), Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital (Huntingdon) and Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital.

The 2014 game netted $310,000, a new record for Pink Zone and the Penn State team under head coach Coquese Washington.

The effort was bolstered by an additional $90,000 in in-kind donations from area businesses.

“The Lady Lions team has been really involved,” Powell said.

“They have done tours to get out and see where the Pink Zone dollars go.

“Coquese knows that our Pink Zone game is the premier event in the country. We do have the top pink game in all of collegiate women’s athletics. And we’re trying to keep it growing.”

“Its continued growth amazes me year in and year out,” Washington said in a July press release.

“The Pink Zone at Penn State has such a huge impact, not just in our community, but regionally and nationally and we are so proud to be a       leader in the women’s basketball community in this fight against breast cancer.”

Projects supported directly by Pink Zone include:

The Lady Lion Basketball Cancer Resource Center at Mount Nittany Medical Center, which also hired a dedicated breast health navigator with Pink Zone donations.

Penn State-Hershey’s Lady Lion Basketball Breast Cancer Research Endowment, which supports research focusing on breast cancer prevention by combining lower doses of anti-estrogens with a healthy diet.

Pink wrap on the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition’s van used as a mobile billboard for breast cancer awareness across the state.

Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition’s Refunds for Research initiative, which allows individuals to include  donations from their income-tax returns to fund research grants in the state.

The Kay Yow Cancer Fund, which is named for the late N.C. State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow, awards a $50,000 to $100,000 research grant to fund a cancer research project at a Cancer Center in the host city of that year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Breast health coordinator at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital.

A tetherless vacuum-assisted biopsy system to help improve             diagnostic care at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital.

While surpassing $300,000 in money raised allowed Pink Zone to hit one of its marks in 2014, the program fell just short on another target: 700 survivors at the game.

“We’re going to shoot for 700 again, because technically we didn’t get there,” Powell said.

“It’s hard to get that many women onto and then off of the floor during halftime. But we don’t mind. We make it work. Having to make room for that many women is a great problem to have.

“That’s what this game is really all about, to celebrate breast cancer survivors throughout Pennsylvania.”

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