By Travis Gulbrandson
While Coyote fans often wear red to the DakotaDome, there may be a lot more pink than usual during Saturday’s game against Youngstown State.
That’s because it’s also the day of the Pink Walk, a cooperative effort between USD and Sanford Vermillion that aims to raise awareness of breast cancer and breast health within the community.
“I developed the concept of the Pink Walk for Sanford health to tie in with their game sponsorship,” said Neal Bendesky, director of marketing and promotions with USD Athletics, in an e-mail. “Mary Merrigan of Sanford Vermillion was very receptive, and she has created additional components to help bring us all together in support of breast cancer awareness.”
“It was just kind of a natural thing for us to pull all that together and make a little celebration out of it,” Merrigan said.
The walk will begin at Sanford Vermillion at 11:15 a.m. Saturday with a special ribbon cutting by local cancer survivor Carol Bye.
“Carol will cut a pink ribbon to start the walk at Sanford Vermillion, and she will also be recognized at halftime of the football game,” Bendesky said.
Bye was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2012, and her diagnosis required six months of treatment at the Sanford Cancer Center in Sioux Falls, Bendesky said.
“During that time, Carol appreciated the help of so many friends and family including her husband, sisters, children, in-laws and grandchildren, who all took time to escort her to treatments and provide support for her,” Bendesky said. “Carol is an 18-month survivor of breast cancer and is happy to report that she has no sign of cancer.”
The walk will begin following the ribbon cutting, and will move across the USD campus to Coyote Tailgate Nation outside the DakotaDome, where they will be hosted with a pre-game party by Classic Hits 106.3 and ESPN Radio 1570.
“For anyone that walks with us, when they get to the tailgate area, they will receive a pink bag that will have a giveaway in it, as well as educational materials,” Merrigan said.
Once they reach Coyote Tailgate Nation, walkers will receive a pink bag with giveaway items and educational materials, Merrigan said.
They also will get a free ticket to the game, along with a voucher for 50 percent off another ticket, and will be entered in a drawing for a gift package.
Free tickets are available for the first 150 participants who register.
“If we gave every of those out, that would be fantastic, but we’ll be excited with whatever we have for a crowd,” Merrigan said.
Approximately 25 people had already registered as of Monday, she added.
During the game itself, Bendesky said the USD football team will wear pink shoelaces and wristbands, and the training staff will use pink tape that was provided by Sanford Health.
Merrigan said this is the first time Sanford Vermillion has partnered with USD for an event of this level.
“We’ve certainly had some awareness games before, but deciding to add the walk was kind of a fun and different element,” she said. “Hopefully we’re pulling in some people that maybe otherwise wouldn’t be going to the game or going to the tailgate area,” she said.
Bendesky said he hoped the event would help bring focus to the cause.
“So many are touched by this disease, as one in eight women will face breast cancer in their lifetime,” he said.
To register for the event, call Jill Christopherson at (605) 638-8465 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration can also take place via twitter using @sdcoyotes or @neal-bendesky.