WESTFIELD, NJ — The home of the Blue Devils turned pink Friday evening, as the Westfield girls’ volleyball program hosted another successful, powerful and moving Pink Out match to raise awareness and help in the battle of conquering breast cancer.
Spearheaded by Westfield volleyball team parents, head coach Beverly Torok and her team, the 11th-annual event did not disappoint. The pink-clad gymnasium set the backdrop while a silent auction/tricky tray, family contests, and tables of food in the hallways gave the school a festive atmosphere from the time before the 4 p.m. freshman game, though the 5:30 p.m. junior varsity contest, and all the way through the conclusion of the varsity match at night.
All three games were against Bridgewater-Raritan, which too wore pink and also donated a basket to raffle off.
While the mood was festive during the matches, the reminders of how serious breast cancer is were numerous. The statistics posted on signs lining the outside entranceway, posters throughout the gymnasium those in the survivor’s tunnel all served as means to raise awareness of the disease.
“All day, and it’s not just the town-wide community, but in this building today, everybody had a pink shirt on,” said Westfield High School Athletics director Sandra Mamary. “Unfortunately, this is a disease that hits everybody, but everybody can get behind it, too. It’s worthwhile beyond, and everybody steps up for the occasion — and has fun while reminding everybody of what the problem is.”
Now in its 11th year, the Pink Out has become one of the most popular events during the school year at Westfield. All proceeds from the event directly benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation of North Jersey. Through the years, Westfield had raised $219,000, a number sure to grow following the game.
“I look for the day when things will diminish, and we’re hoping that our money going to research will certainly help,” said Torok, who is a breast cancer survivor. “We’re at $219,000 over the years. We are again hoping for another good year. We appreciate teams like Bridgewater — they have never done it with us before — that have accepted the challenge, came in pink, and gave us a basket to raffle off.
"All those things are really very nice for the camaraderie. But the big deal is the survivors tunnel at the end of the night, when people from both teams that have been affected by breast cancer come though under a tunnel made by the kids.”
The high school gym sold out for the event for which vendors donated food and items were raffled off to spectators who came in droves. Torok commended the team parents for their efforts in putting the event together, from planning and organization, to promoting, getting the food vendors, decorations.
“It just exemplifies our community and how our community gives back," she said. "This is something that, I don’t know if it’s grown in popularity, so much as that it’s sustained its popularity and sustained the level of giving that it has."
With the popularity and exposure that the Pink Out receives, the hope is that awareness gained will lead to action against the disease.
The statistics posted outside — such as one-in-eight women will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetime — show the reality of breast cancer today. Showing those numbers, Torok hopes, will help push the ball toward finding better treatments and a cure for the disease.
"It’s hard to tell sometimes, but I’m hoping that just one person learns something they didn’t know — even if it’s just the statistics we have out in front," Torok said. "They’re pretty heavy statistics. One-in-eight women will be affected by breast cancer, and again, we’re hoping that these numbers drop. It makes the girls have to realize that this is about them, and they have to take care of themselves and be aware of the signs and symptoms.”