Fans of the Perrysburg High School football program traded in their black and gold for pink tonight to raise breast cancer awareness.
They came decked in pink sweatshirts, scarves, and even Santa hats, matching the pink socks members of the football team wore. But perhaps eighth-grader Max Johnston had the best accessory for the soggy evening: a striped pink umbrella.
"I'm just proud to support breast cancer awareness," he said, staying dry under the loan from his mother.
The Yellow Jackets' game against Bowling Green was part of the Spielman Gridiron Classic, which aims to raise $100,000 in Ohio toward breast cancer research during the high school football season.
Former Ohio State Buckeyes and Detroit Lions linebacker Chris Spielman continues to support a fund in honor of his wife Stephanie, which has raised millions of dollars to date. Ms. Spielman died of breast cancer in 2009, but she is remembered for surviving four other bouts with the disease and her tireless efforts to raise awareness and support.
Laurie Barteck, 49, of Perrysburg, is a survivor too, having been diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago. Her fellow Perrysburg athletic boosters wore buttons in her honor at the game.
When she had a mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy, her oldest son was a senior, her daughter a sophomore, and youngest son in fourth grade. The school community pitched in and made meals for the family. "We didn't cook for a month," she said.
Ms. Barteck pulled others from under the hospitality tent off the north end zone to see a plane flying overhead with a banner that read "HOPE SOARS," in honor of the evening's theme.
"Perrysburg is a great community when people need help, they really step up," she said.
Cheerleaders went through the stands and stadium areas with pink buckets for donations. The marching band formed the signature ribbon symbol on the field as students released five white doves. Pink T-shirts were sold at the gate, and raffle tickets were sold for a football autographed by Mr. Spielman.
Freshmen pals Brandt Winter, R.J. McKee, and Zachary Taylor were wearing an array of pink clothing and ribbed classmate Aaron Louk for not dressing for the occasion. He borrowed a pink bandana from Zachary and grinned. "Now I'm sporting the pink," he said.
Ms. Barteck said the school's participation in the Spielman Gridiron Classic was moving. She serves as a nurse in the district's elementary schools, and she knows professionally and personally how critical it is to support breast cancer research and treatment.
Every year of life a cancer patient survives gives that person hope, she said.
"The cure could be right around the corner."
Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-356-8786.