With October being designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Lynn High School was eager to make its observance and support of the cause special -- as well as one that the entire community could get behind. Since pink is recognized as the official color for breast cancer awareness, the idea to hold a "pinkout" -- similar to "whiteouts" and "blackouts" held at college football stadiums across the country -- struck a cord with the Bears' Head Coach Phillip Smith. Smith, however, saw much more potential beyond the fans of the team dressing in pink to show their support.
"Our kids have seen the firsthand effects of how breast cancer can effect lives," Smith said. "Many of them know someone outside of school who has battled with it and that's something that sticks out in their minds even at their young age."
Smith brought his idea of how his team could support breast cancer awareness in September -- an idea that would include a pink integration to their game uniforms -- to get an idea of how they react to the proposal. The Bears' October uniforms would include pink half-sleeves and pink athletic tape on gamedays, as well as pink work-out shirts that would be worn under their jerseys. His players' response to the idea was not only surprising, but also heartwarming.
"We talked quite a bit about it beforehand and discussed some of the issues that go on in the battle breast cancer patients go through," Smith said. "They really took to the idea of showing their support in their uniforms. Since then, it has really evolved into our community supporting the idea, as well as our students and faculty. Our fanbase here at Lynn as supportive as I have ever seen and for them to see their team get behind this cause helped spur them into showing their own support. Now everywhere you look, not only on gamedays -- but throughout the week -- everyone is wearing pink."
Of particular inspiration for the team was Lynn's bookkeeper, Linda Hardin -- who has been diagnosed with breast cancer two times in her life and a staff member that students and players see everyday. Smith said that Hardin's faith, courage and belief that she displays everyday in the face of her battle has been a focus for the team's support -- and is the basis of the message of "Believe" that is printed on the back of the Lynn Football pink T-shirts that are worn by coaches and supporters.
"I've talked to her several times and heard those words come from her on days that you know she doesn't feel good -- you can see it in her eyes -- but she never complains or gripes. She shows up to work and tell you that you have to have that faith and belief," Smith said. "We play a great game on Friday nights -- one that's important and coaches get hired and fired over. But the game of life is so much more important -- and the struggle that those who are effected by breast cancer go through is monumental. And that's the reason why we have decided to make this entire month a pinkout -- to support Ms. Hardin and all of those who fight the breast cancer battle everyday, not just on Friday nights, but seven days a week. We can learn just as much from Ms. Hardin and other people who are going through it than they can ever learn from us."
Lynn senior linemen Nathan Berry and Jared Tittle said that the opportunity to show their support for breast cancer awareness and those who they personally know who have battled it was an easy choice for their team.
"It's just like how we support our community as they come out to cheer for us," Berry said. "We all have family members who have struggled with breast cancer and this is our way of supporting them as well."
"There are more people who come out to support us than there lives in our town who have people close to them that are also battling it," Tittle said. "They show their support for their loved ones' battle and we want them to know we're their in support also."
Hardin expressed her astonishment and joy about how the team, students and community have shown their support for her battle, as well as those who fight against breast cancer daily.
"I felt so honored and excited that these young people actually thought about something like this," Hardin said. "I don't think I can correctly put into words how much their support means to me. These are kids who are busy with sports -- who have taken the time to think of other people who have breast cancer. It's incredible to see, especially on Friday night, with the way that the field was decorated, the players and coaches had on pink and our fans were all pinked-out. I hope it is something we will see at other schools happen because it affects so many peoples' lives."