Campus went pink for breast cancer

Pink is the color of hope, strength and support for those diagnosed with breast cancer. And for one week at UM, pink was everywhere on campus – including the water fountains.

Zeta Tau Alpha’s (ZTA) annual Think Pink week launched with the goal of sharing breast cancer education during October, breast cancer awareness month. ZTA is one of the seven social sororities at UM.

ZTA began tabling in the UC Breezeway on Monday. The sisters distributed brochures with information about self-examinations and handed out more than 3,000 ribbons for students to wear in support of the fight against breast cancer.

“Breast cancer can affect anyone, and it’s important that everyone knows what they can do for early detection or to tell family and friends about mammograms, detection and doctors appointments,” said sophomore Shelby Byer, a sister of ZTA.

The idea to dye the water fountains pink came from a suggestion that senior Brittany Doyle, the chapter president, heard from another chapter president at a convention.

ZTA then approached the Dean of Students Office with the request and worked with Dean Tony Lake to make Think Pink week happen.

When Gregory Gibson, senior manager of building facilities, heard about the idea, he joined in to help spread awareness in honor of his sister, Kimberly Gibson, who passed away from breast cancer on Oct. 11, 2011. His enthusiasm and passion led him to suggest not only dying the water but also buying gels for the lights to make the pink stand out even more.

Before going through with the plan, ZTA sisters had to discuss if the project was worth the cost. While debating whether the money should instead be used for other awareness efforts, ZTA found that the fountains had already been dyed because the administration took care of it for them.

“They just surprised us with it,” Doyle said. “It was really cool. I guess that meant they really wanted it to happen. This is so important of an issue. It seems everyone knows a woman diagnosed with breast cancer.”

ZTA became involved in breast cancer awareness efforts as part of a nationwide initiative that involves chapters throughout the country. The UM chapter is recognized as one of the top 10 fundraisers in the country.

Aside from passing out pamphlets and ribbons, ZTA also created a memorial wall, where anyone could write the name of someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer on a pink ribbon and add it to the wall. The wall is located in the UC Breezeway and is kept in the ZTA suite at the Panhellenic Building.

There was also a “Kiss for a Cause” banner, which people kissed with pink lipstick and signed their names to show support. Among the many signatures is Sebastian the Ibis, who kissed and signed the banner. According to Doyle, he is a big supporter of the cause.

The organization also hosted a dodgeball tournament, in which various sororities, fraternities and organizations competed against each other.  ZTA then featured a Yoplait yogurt-eating contest, since Yoplait is a ZTA sponsor.

Yoplait donates money to different breast cancer initiatives for every pink lid that is collected. ZTA set up several lid collection boxes in the dining halls, food court and at the dodgeball tournament. Sebastian was at the tournament boasting an enlarged pink ribbon to show his support.

“My freshman year, Zeta was here tabling doing the same thing we are,” senior Julie Bowman said. “I remember taking a ribbon and keeping it to remember what they’re about. When I was going through recruitment, it caught my eye seeing their passion. It made me want to be a part of their cause.”

It was that personal experience which drew Bowman to join ZTA and be a part of this cause. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Bowman was 10 years old.

“That experience taught me the importance of getting women aware and knowing how to take care of their bodies,” Bowman said. “Twenty years ago when breast cancer was not talked about, it was a taboo topic. But with organizations like Susan G. Komen and even ZTA, they spread awareness.”

Since greater awareness of breast cancer now exists, Bowman offered advice for early detection.

“The best kind of treatment you can get is if you go in early, go to doctors appointments and get mammograms,” she said. “It’s the best way of catching cancer.”