Lady Lion Basketball Play4Kay Game Benefiting Pink Zone
When the Lady Lions tipoff at the Play4Kay Game Benefiting Pink Zone, they will be playing for more than just a game. The traditional blue and white uniforms will be swapped for pink, as the Lady Lions honor those in the fight of their lives against breast cancer.
Though the game takes place annually, the fight against breast cancer is a yearlong effort. The six beneficiaries that benefit from Pink Zone are Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital.
Through the past ten years, the Lady Lions have raised $1.6 million. Last year, the Bryce Jordan Center was packed with 9,124 fans, 640 of which were breast cancer survivors.
After the game, survivors and loved ones are invited to meet coaches and players to take pictures and sign autographs. It’s a symbolic meeting of those who share a common goal of fighting for a cure so that someday, there will no longer have to be a Pink Zone game.
Former head coach Rene Portland helped pioneer the first Think Pink game back on Jan. 18, 2007. The Lady Lions were the first team to wear pink uniforms during a game as part of a breast cancer awareness effort. Penn State celebrated a victory on the court, honored approximately 30 breast cancer survivors at halftime, and raised over $20,000 in support of breast cancer research.
In the summer of 2011, Pink Zone at Penn State changed their name and officially became The Pennsylvania Pink Zone. The cause outgrew the reach of Penn State women’s basketball, and is now able to be supported throughout the calendar year as a nonprofit organization.
As Penn State established the Think Pink game, legendary North Carolina State head coach Kay Yow, who was also battling breast cancer, became actively involved with the event. In 2007, Yow partnered with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and The V Foundation for Cancer Research to establish the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, a charitable organization committed to supporting cancer research and helping the underserved. Unfortunately, Coach Yow passed away in 2009 after fighting the illness for more than two decades.
Head coach Coquese Washington has been instrumental in propelling the Pink Zone event to new heights. An outspoken, strong supporter of the cause, Washington also has a law degree, which helped Pink Zone when it applied to become a nonprofit.
“Throughout the year, I come across so many people who make mention of the Pink Zone Game,” said Washington. “They talk about being so excited for the Pink Zone game and coming out. It’s a celebration. The survivors feel like they are treated like royalty. For one day, they get to embrace what being a survivor means. That’s what it means for us and our program. We get an opportunity to celebrate the strength, courage and fortitude that it takes to battle cancer, and to have the opportunity to celebrate it with the survivors.”
At the Pink Zone Game, when a packed Bryce Jordan Center glows pink from thousands of Lady Lion fans waving their shakers, it will be in support of more than just a game. Win or lose, we are all on the same team in the fight for a cure. Pink Zone is leading the charge.