More than 1,000 Ohio Valley high school football players will be wearing pink ribbons on their helmets next month in a show of support for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
On Thursday, coaches and athletic directors representing 19 area high schools turned out at Wheeling Hospital's Howard Long Wellness Center to kick off the pink ribbon project, also sponsored by the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and Scholastic Sports Marketing.
During the program, Gregg Warren, vice president of public relations and marketing at Wheeling Hospital, thanked the schools for their efforts to bring the message of breast cancer awareness to the public.
Photo by Heather Ziegler
Wheeling Park High School head football coach Chris Daugherty places a pink ribbon decal on a Patriot helmet as part of a National Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign.
"Each October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this year area high school football players will sport pink reminders to their loved ones of the importance of receiving mammograms," Warren noted.
The decals will be placed on the backs of football helmets, and athletic directors are being asked to make short public announcements regarding National Breast Cancer Awareness Month during their home games throughout October.
Ronald Violi, chief executive officer at Wheeling Hospital, said the pink ribbon is nationally recognized to symbolize breast cancer awareness.
"Athletes donning the decal are reminding their moms, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and other loved ones of the importance of receiving an annual mammogram," Violi said. "The players and their coaches, athletic directors and school administrators are making a statement - detecting breast cancer in its early stages significantly increases the chances for survival. Simply put, the athletes and their mentors really care."
Tom Rataiczak, executive secretary of the OVAC, said the pink ribbon campaign is a way for the OVAC to be about more than just sports.
"When I first started, I thought we are all about athletes, but this allows us to be involved in our kids, their families, our culture and our society," he said. "Wearing these pink ribbons shows we understand it and support it. It's something that did not have to be done but should be done."
Jay Circosta, head football coach at Monroe Central, concurred with Rataiczak and thanked all those involved in the effort.
He said his own mother developed breast cancer and his father was treated for prostate cancer by the valley's best cancer specialists, who happen to work at Wheeling Hospital.
"We have a tremendous opportunity to make more people aware. Cancer is a battle, and we can battle it on the field, too," Circosta said.
Doctors Manish Monga, David Ghaphrey, Angelo Georges and Gregory Merrick all thanked the coaches for getting their schools involved in the fight against breast cancer.
They are the leaders in cancer care and research at Wheeling Hospital, earning praise from their peers around the country.
"Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer. This year, 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,000 of them will die. Survival depends on early detection," Ghaphrey said.
James Companion, SSM president, said, "We are thrilled to be a part of this comprehensive effort to help raise awareness of such an important cause. This will be another fine example of how the student-athletes of the conference member schools are bettering the Ohio Valley on and off the field."