GAYVILLE — The gymnasium at Gayville-Volin School looked a lot pinker than usual at Tuesday night's volleyball games, with many of the spectators and all of the players sporting the color.
The reason for this was DiG PiNK, a national event that promotes breast health education and raises funds to help eradicate breast cancer.
Jennifer Goettertz, assistant volleyball coach at Gayville-Volin, said it was a night to "celebrate courage.
"We celebrate the courage of a teenage girl to step on the court and battle an opponent in the mental and physical game of volleyball," she said. "But we are also here to celebrate the courage of a different sort of battle with an invisible opponent — the battle of breast cancer survivors."
Gayville-Volin is just one of thousands of volleyball teams across the country participating in the fall 2009 DiG PiNK National Breast Cancer Awareness Rally, which is sponsored by the Side-Out Foundation.
October is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In the days leading up to the game, the school raised funds for Side-Out through the sale of pink T-shirts and silicone bracelets, many of which were worn Tuesday night.
"I set out thinking we would sell some T-shirts — maybe sell 100 — but we sold 325 T-shirts (by Monday alone)," Goettertz said.
All told, more than $1,000 will go to Side-Out, she said.
Tuesday also served as an opportunity to recognize area breast cancer survivors, each of whom stood at the head of the gym and received a pink rose. The survivors included Barbara Miller, a 21-year survivor; Julie Jensen, a 10-month survivor; and Elaine Dimock, a 14-year survivor.
Another survivor made the evening more personal for Goettertz — her mother, Karla.
"I had never personally met a true hero until my mother became one," she said. "This past March, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and with that diagnosis we began the long, tiresome battle to recovery.
"Tonight, I wear pink to celebrate both her courage and recovery," she said.
Karla Goettertz said she felt honored to be recognized.
"Anything that we can do to bring an awareness to early detection for the young and the old is good," she said.
This is not Karla Goettertz's first battle with cancer.
"I had colon cancer six years ago, but it just doesn't make it any easier the second time around," she said.
She described her recovery as "pretty fair."
"I get real tired yet. I've had both chemo and radiation," she said. "As soon as my hair is down to my shoulders, I'll feel much better."
Jennifer Goettertz said she first learned about DiG PiNK at a volleyball clinic in March, the same month her mother was diagnosed. That diagnosis made her want to get involved even more.
"My mom had surgery on (a) Wednesday, and they were introducing this idea to us on Friday, so we knew this was something we wanted to do," she said.
Goettertz said her mother was very much on her mind during the recognition ceremony.
"It's pretty emotional," she said. "I've been running around trying to get everything organized today, so the moment that I got to read our announcement, it brought me back to focus.
"It was a great experience," she said. "I am very honored to have all the survivors here, and I'm especially blessed to have my mom with us."
Karla Goettertz said events like DiG PiNK are important.
"I think it's wonderful because it just makes you more aware of yourself," she said. "You have to be aware of your own body. We're always thinking of health care, but health care doesn't do us any good if we don't take care of ourselves."
She stressed the importance of early detection.
"All I can say is check, check, check," Goettertz said. "I found (the cancer) myself. I had had a physical in October because I had a new knee put in. I had a mammogram, I had my colonoscopy, and in February, I found the lump myself. So check yourself every month. Don't get too blasé about it, because it's out there."
Local sponsors of DiG PiNK included the South Dakota National Guard, Hy-Vee, Petrik Farms, The Collision Center and The Graphic Edge.
For more information about the Side-Out Foundation and DiG PiNK, visit www.side-out.org.