Forget about going green: Elk County is going pink. This Friday will mark the third annual county-wide Pink Day to support breast cancer awareness.
The annual event began in 2008 and has grown each year to involve all of the schools within the county.
"It would be wonderful for the tradition to become community-wide throughout Elk County on one designated day each October," said Roben Daghir, elementary guidance counselor for the Ridgway Area School District. "We tell our younger students that if a plane were flying overhead on Pink Day, there would be a sea of pink over Elk County."
Daghir added that students throughout the county are familiar with cancer and its effect on family members and friends.
"Wearing pink is a symbol of support and a small display of commitment that we will continue to support the fight against cancer and we commit to practicing good healthy habits in an effort to maintain our own health. Wearing pink is a small gesture with a huge message," Daghir said.
The event has been particularly popular with area students, with youth at each of the area schools embracing the event and helping to make it better each year.
"[Pink Day] means a chance to bring the entire school together to support one cause," said senior Tommi Wildnauer, student council president at Johnsonburg Area High School (JAHS).
Students at JAHS will also have the opportunity to make a donation to have a star with their name placed on a 'think pink' sign. Lollipops will be given to each student wearing pink, and prizes will be awarded to the most outstanding 'pink' supporter. Additionally, faculty and staff designed a T-shirt specifically for the cause and will be wearing them on Friday.
Students at St. Boniface School in Kersey already celebrated their pink day on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
"Pink Day shows that we are supportive of people who are affected by cancer," said Abby Adamski, a fifth grader at St. Boniface.
"We do this to show the support we have for breast cancer awareness," said her classmate Cody Dezanet.
"We wore pink to show our support," added Samantha Geci, also a fifth grader at St. Boniface.
Elk County Catholic High School (ECCHS) students are selling shirts for Pink Day, with proceeds benefitting breast cancer services at Elk Regional Health Center. The Dairy Queen Relay for Life team will be selling bracelets during the school's lunch periods to raise additional funds. Some of the teachers plan to incorporate activities into their classes and the school's foyer will be decorated with pink and white decorations.
"[Pink Day] is a great way to give support and recognition to all of the women, including my mom, who have gone through breast cancer. It means a lot to me to see everyone wearing pink in honor of the women that have gone through this," said Brock McCullough, a junior at ECC. "After seeing my mom go through it, it means that much more to me because I know how much she appreciates it."
ECCHS will also hold a special Mass for breast cancer survivors on Friday morning at 10:30 a.m., with the public welcome to attend.
"I think that it is important for anyone to participate in a 'pink day' to raise awareness and honor all of those who have lost their lives because of cancer in any form," said ECCHS senior Sara Kucenski. "Also, it is important to thank God for all he has done for those who have survived and even those who haven't. They are with God now and are not suffering anymore."
Ridgway Area Middle and High school students will participate in an assembly presented by the American Cancer Society. There will also be a number of contests and students are encouraged to wear pink.
"The day is exciting for the students. It is different from other dress-down days because the students identify with the purpose of the day. It isn't hard to gain the interest and support of students. They enjoy knowing that all of the schools in Elk County are participating on the same day for the same cause," Daghir said.
Also in the Ridgway Area School District, the Francis S. Grandinetti Elementary School students and staff will be making a donation to a local survivor to support her travel and expenses for treatment.
"Other schools have chosen to make a donation to the American Cancer Society, Elk Regional Health Center - Women's Clinic, or Hahne Cancer Center facility in DuBois. There are other breast cancer organizations to donate to as well, and Susan G. Komen has been named in the past as a recipient of Pink Day collections," Daghir said. "It is the choice of the school or business/community to whom they would like to make a donation."
Aside from students wearing pink on Friday, no other information was available as of press time regarding the St. Marys Area School District's plans for Pink Day.
Daghir added that the county-wide Pink Day represents a unified effort among the communities in Elk County to support breast cancer survivors and the survivors of other forms of cancer.