Think Pink

BY Emily Colin

Heather Thornton is 36 years old. Shes the mother of a four-year-old and a six-year-old and shes the IT Manager of Clinical Applications at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. And on August 8 2009 she celebrated the one-year anniversary of her successful fight against breast cancer.

A vibrant active woman with bright eyes and an engaging smile Thornton had no known risk factors and no family history of the disease. She was young and she was healthy. But when a self-exam and subsequent biopsy revealed a diagnosis of stage IIB invasive ductal carcinoma she found herself among the 12 percent of American women who develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. She needed surgery followed by chemotherapy and she needed it quickly.

“The experience really gave me a passion for breast cancer awareness ” says Thornton who currently chairs the Third Party Events committee for New Hanover County Regional Medical Center Foundations Pink Ribbon Project. “It was that event in my life that has made me want to make people aware of the importance of early detection and mitigation. Ive really become a spokesperson for how that benefited me.”

In the scheme of things Thornton sees herself as one of the lucky ones. “I had a great job I had good health insurance and access to the best doctors and nurses. But what happens to those women who are uninsured or underinsured? I cant imagine having to choose between do I feed my kids and put clothes on their back or do I get this taken care of?”

Pink Ribbon Project

Enter the Pink Ribbon Project where Thornton has channeled her considerable energies for advocacy. Since its launch in 1998 NHRMCs Pink Ribbon events and donations have raised more than $1 000 000 for breast cancer awareness prevention diagnosis and treatment. The project has also created and distributed more than 4 000 Comfort Bags filled with items that provide comfort and hope during treatment to women diagnosed with breast cancer. The bags which are available at the Zimmer Cancer Center and doctors offices throughout the city contain everything from lavender eye soothers to small pillows in satin pillow cases to soothe scalp irritation that can bother chemotherapy patients handmade by women at the New Hanover County Senior Center says Tracey Kellogg special events officer for NHRMC Foundation. “Every year we have a focus group of survivors who evaluate the bags ” Kellogg says.

Monies from Pink Ribbon also support the Coastal Care Van which visits New Hanover Pender Brunswick Duplin and Onslow counties according to a set schedule. As the regions only mobile cancer screening van it provides mammograms to underinsured and uninsured women who as Heather Thornton mentions might otherwise be faced with the terrible decision of choosing between putting food on their table or taking care of their health. The Foundation estimates that the Pink Ribbon Project provides 400 women with mammography screenings each year and now theyve taken the process one step further.

“Three years ago we increased the services that we were providing to women ” says Kellogg. She explains that in order to qualify for aid a diagnosis of cancer is necessary but what if you cant afford to have a suspicious mammogram reviewed by a doctor? Once again Pink Ribbon has stepped into the breach. “We pay for additional diagnostics. We did that for fourteen women last year who would otherwise have had to pay to have a doctor read (their mammograms). Then if theyre diagnosed with cancer folks like Iris Baker at the Zimmer Cancer Center can help them connect with patient advocates or other resources.”

The Pink Ribbon Projects signature event is their annual breakfast luncheon and dinner held during October of each year to commemorate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In 2008 the event hosted nearly 1 000 supporters and netted $100 000. This year marks the 12th annual Pink Ribbon fundraiser to be held on October 8 at the Holiday Inn Resort in Wrightsville Beach. Leslie Hales is chairing the event which will feature local author Ellen Elizabeth Hunter as the luncheon and dinner speaker and local author and survivor Connie Hill as the breakfast speaker. Each year Pink Ribbon showcases a local artist who creates artwork inspired by the project; this years choice is the accomplished photographer Brownie Harris.

“We have businesses that have supported us every year since the beginning. Delaney Radiology is our presenting sponsor again and Swain and Associates is a platinum sponsor. Reeds Jewelry donates a piece of jewelry for each table ” says Kellogg. “We still have some of the table hostesses who were part of the original event who had the idea and said We can do this we can raise money and make a difference. Weve tried to stay true to the tradition of women who started this and not price ourselves out of the market.” This year attendance at the breakfast will cost $55; lunch $100; and dinner $125.

As incredible as the Pink Ribbons major annual fundraiser is the communitys third-party events make an equally important contribution. Last year the Pink Ribbon Project raised a total of $185 000 in net contributions 100 percent of which stays local. The NHRMC Foundations fundraiser raised $100 000 of those monies; the balance came from committed organizations and individuals who had a passion for the cause. This year promises to be even more exciting. From a bachelor auction at Carolina Beachs Last Resort to the Pine Valley Country Club Womens Golf Association Tournament and Luncheon folks around town are banding together to think pink.

Angies Amazing Race

Last year Angies Amazing Race was the top-earning Pink Ribbon third-party event bringing in an impressive $22 500 in contributions. Now in its fourth year and presented by Angies Angels and Britt Motor Sports the Amazing Race is a benefit motorcycle ride held on the first Sunday of October (in this case October 4) honoring Angie Holliday who lost her life to breast cancer in February 2006.

“Its not a timed race ” says event founder and organizer Charlie McGee otherwise known as Mama Angel. “When people show up they either have a team or we put them with one. Then they get a clue sheet and they figure out how they need to go. Its about 80-100 miles and they follow clues go to different places and get the answers to questions. The team with the most correct answers wins.”

The event will kick off at Britt Motor Sports this years $1 000 sponsor with registration at 9:30 a.m. “The first groups will leave around 10:30. Each year more and more people are getting involved. It really is a lot of fun ” says McGee who anticipates that the 2009 Amazing Race will once again be a phenomenal success. “The economy may be off but were not ” she says with confidence. “Were still in there fighting the fight.”

Rock for the Cure

Want to contribute but find yourself short of funds? Every little bit helps and we just might have the perfect event for you. On Friday October 3 the UNCW Communication Studies Society will present the 3rd annual Rock for the Cure breast cancer benefit concert with all proceeds going toward the Pink Ribbon Project. Admission to this fabulous event is just $5 and buys you access to the signature sounds of The Schoolboys as well as a silent auction and raffle.

“Its an event that a lot of people who want to contribute can attend. Many big-time events are really costly and students cant afford to go ” says Rock for the Cure faculty advisor Jennifer Chin. “This event is more geared toward students so that people that are younger can make a difference.”

Wall of Water

Also in its third year the Wall of Water event will be held at sponsor Toyota of Wilmington on Saturday October 17. The brainchild of NextMedias local sales manager Josh Lee this wild event calls for 3 DJs from NextMedia stations Sunny 104.5 Jammin 99.9 and Z107.5 to be sequestered in vehicles at Toyota of Wilmington surrounded by you guessed it 15 pallets of bottled water generously transported by Two Men and a Truck. To free the hapless DJs event attendees must purchase cases of water at $5 a pop. The event will begin at 9 a.m. and will continue until 5 p.m. or until the water is sold out says Promotions Director Kim Slozak. Last year the Wall of Water raised $2 500 and this year organizers are setting the bar higher at a cool $5 000. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go toward the Pink Ribbon Project.

show your support.

Thursday October 8: 12th Annual Pink Ribbon breakfast lunch and dinner at the Holiday Inn Resort in Wrightsville Beach. Contact Tracey Kellogg at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation (910) 815.5042 for more information or visit

In addition to the NHRMCs annual fundraiser The Pink Ribbon Project boasts an impressive list of third-party events. While the majority of these take place in October in accordance with Breast Cancer Awareness Month a few are held at other times of year (such as Girls Night Out at the Forum which took place in September and the Last Resort Bachelor Auction which was going going gone in August). Below is a list of the Pink Ribbon events scheduled for October 2009 and beyond.

Saturday October 3: Tri-Sports Event 5K at Mayfaire Town Center contact Noelle Flauaus at (910) 256-2395

Sunday October 4: Angies Amazing Race presented by Angies Angels and Britt Motor Sports

Wednesday October 7: Country Club of Landfall Pink Ribbon Tennis Tournament (open to all female Country Club of Landfall members)

Thursday October 8: Country Club of Landfall Pink Ribbon Golf Tournament (open to all female Country Club of Landfall members)

Tuesday October 13: Echo Farms Womens Golf Association (members only) Golf Tournament and Dinner

Thursday October 15: Pine Valley Country Club Womens Golf Association (members only) Golf Tournament and Luncheon

Saturday October 17: Wall of Water presented by Z107.5 Sunny 104.5 and Jammin 99.9 sponsored by (and held at) Toyota of Wilmington

Thursday October 22: Magnolia Greens Womens Golf Association (members only) Steel Magnolias Play for Pink Tournament and Awards Banquet

Friday October 23: Lumina Station “Pink Has a Purpose” Ribbon Tying 10:30 a.m. Throughout October merchants at Lumina for a contribution of any amount offer people a pink ribbon on which theyre asked to write the name of a cancer survivor or victim then tie that ribbon in a tree on the Lumina Station grounds a striking visual testament to the ubiquitous nature of breast cancer.

Friday October 23: Rock for the Cure sponsored by UNCW Communications Studies Society at the Reel Caf 7-10 PM

Friday November 20 and Saturday November 21: Betsy W. Lewis Tennis Challenge at Holly Tree Racquet Club

Lee was inspired to support the project because of personal experience. “One of my cousins passed away from breast cancer and one of my moms close friends has breast cancer. Ive seen how easily it can break your spirits down ” he says. He appreciates Pink Ribbons local focus. “I wanted to help to do something but I wanted the money to stay locally. I love seeing things stay in the community.”

Country Club of Landfall Ladies Golf and Tennis Associations Tournaments and Cocktail Party

Angies Amazing Race may have taken home the gold medal for the most money raised in 2008 but the incredible ladies of Landfall were not far behind. Landfall took home the silver netting a phenomenal $15 878 toward the fight against breast cancer. In 2009 theyll hold two separate Pink Ribbon tournaments a tennis tournament held on October 7 and a golf tournament held on October 8 so that women have the opportunity to participate in both events. On the evening of October 8 there will be a cocktail party complete with silent auction shopping boutique and raffle.

“The Country Club of Landfall has been a huge supporter of the Pink Ribbon effort for many years ” says member Trent Armbruster. “This is the fourth year that we are specifically benefiting New Hanover Regional Medical Center and the Zimmer Cancer Center. Our golf and tennis tournaments raise substantial funds from the Landfall community and we feel it is important to keep these funds within the New Hanover area. In 2009 Passage Kingoffs Reeds Landfall Realty and The Pavilion are a few of the businesses that will participate. The yearly financial contribution by CCL to this charity is a testament to our members commitment to the community.”

Betsy W. Lewis Tennis Challenge

Betsy Lewis was a very competitive person and she loved tennis. After her 2007 death from breast cancer friends and family wanted to do something to honor her memory and so the Betsy W. Lewis Tennis Challenge was born. In 2008 the tournaments first year organizers budgeted for 120 competitors and were amazed when 248 people signed up. Theyd anticipated holding the event at Holly Tree Racquet Club but “we had to expand the tournament into Pine Valley (Country Club) ” says event organizer Nolan Smith. And in the end the event netted $12 756 the third highest amount of any 2008 third-party event.

Scheduled for Friday and Saturday November 20 and 21 this years Challenge kicks off mid-afternoon on Friday followed by an evening social complete with “a raffle food beer giveaways and T-shirts all provided by sponsors ” Nolan says. This years sponsors include Wilmington Anesthesiologists and attorney Dean Humphrey.

The Challenge features mens and womens doubles as well as mixed doubles. “Its a fun tournament reasonably competitive with a mix of participants ” says Nolan. Sound like your cup of tea? More information can be found at

 From Landfall to the Reel Caf motorcycle mamas to golf aficionados radio personalities to retailers our community has stepped up to the plate to support breast cancer awareness treatment and prevention. The success of the Pink Ribbon project reflects the widespread impact of this disease the commitment of NHRMC to helping others and the generosity of spirit reflected in the many individuals who have made it a priority to give back. “The Foundations mission is to provide health care for people regardless of their ability to pay ” says Kellogg. “Were lucky we live in a small community that really cares.”