When Lynn Shirk watched the volleyball match between Hotchkiss and Paonia in early October, she didn't pick a favorite team. It was Pink Night at Paonia High School, and the two teams were playing to support breast cancer awareness and to raise funds for Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado.
Since both teams wore pink breast cancer awareness T-shirts, she could barely tell them apart.
"I was rooting for both sides," said Shirk, community development director for Delta County Hospice.
The evening was all about pink. The program was pink. A pink volleyball was used on the first serve of each match. Even the most rugged of local miners and ranchers proudly displayed pink.
Pink Night is held in conjunction with the Colorado High School Activities Association's Think Pink campaign, which honors October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each October, volleyball teams across the state and the country hold fundraisers for cancer research or a cause of their choosing. This was the fourth year the Lady Eagles have participated in Think Pink, which has raised more than $5,100 for Delta County Hospice. The Oct. 2 matches between Paonia and Hotchkiss netted a record $3,264.25.
"Are you kidding me," said Shirk upon hearing the amount. "Wow!"
Three years ago, Shirk received the first check for $600. "I didn't even know it was coming," she said. "They just called me and said they had a donation."
"It's a good opportunity for kids to give back to their community," said Paonia head coach Krista Carsten. The girls are actively involved in the event, right down to hand-delivering thank-yous to the more than 30 contributing businesses and individuals from Hotchkiss and Paonia.
About 500 people filled the gym to cheer for their team. Proceeds from gate fees alone raised almost $1,000. Drawings for the donated prizes, which included local produce, jams and jellies, a tool kit and a handmade Jen Duvall silver necklace with a pink stone, were held throughout the evening, and two lucky winners got the chance to grab for cash from First Colorado National Bank's money booth. Both donated the money back to Hospice.
Paonia's team shirts were donated by Paonia Care & Rehab, and Weekender Sports and North Fork Bank of Hotchkiss donated the Hotchkiss shirts. Lasting Impressions donated printing and cash for the event and Paonia assistant coach Amy Lacey and graphics artist Mike Stephens of Grand Junction donated their talents to creating this year's design. One of the officials donated her evening's pay back to the event.
"The way the community came together was just amazing," said organizer and Paonia assistant coach, Kriss Allen. Her 2007 team was the first to hold a Pink Night, which recognized local women dealing with breast cancer. At the end of the matches, each player presented her pink shirt to a special woman in her life.
The following year, Allen's grandfather, Clint Roeber, was in advanced stages of Parkinson's disease and the family turned to Hospice. They helped her grandmother in her capacity as caretaker, and allowed her grandfather to die at home on Lamborn Mesa.
Because of Hospice, "He was able to die under the mountain he loved, on the ranch that was in our family since 1889," said Allen. "That touched our family and touched me."
Virtually everyone in the community will at one time or another be affected by Hospice, she added. "It was an emotional night for a lot of people."
For Shirk, it was a "double blessing" just to be there. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is undergoing treatments that drain her energy.
"I'm so proud to be a part of this organization," said Shirk, who is the only non-clinical staff member. About 440 work for the Hospice organization, which covers Mesa, Montrose, Ouray and Delta counties and has an office in Plateau Valley. "Hospice brings peace of mind to so many people."
Delta County Hospice, which has a staff of 35, currently has 87 active cases, said Shirk. Including "pre-Hospice" patients, they are working with more than 100 cases. Those numbers are unprecedented, said Shirk. If there's a bright side, she said, the high numbers may indicate that more people are becoming aware of what Hospice has to offer.
The Delta group alone must raise $2 million a year to meet the needs of its patients, said Shirk. "And we've done it every year, thanks to the people of this community." The money raised at the event will go to caring for the indigent and those not eligible for Medicare. And all of it will stay in Delta County.blog comments powered by Disqus