When I first became involved with Breast Cancer Outreach at Georgetown University, I had no idea what to expect. I had participated in breast cancer fundraisers and events throughout high school, and I have been privileged to know several incredible women who have bravely battled breast cancer, but I had never been involved in a club dedicated to the cause. With the previous year’s board members graduating, I quickly found myself appointed to the role of Vice President.
During my first year with the club, I started feeling pretty overwhelmed. We spent Fridays selling t-shirts to raise money for the cause, which meant reserving and picking up tables, carrying boxes of shirts onto campus, and standing outside, watching students hurry past on their way to class.
The other board members in the club were awesome, and we had a handful of dedicated students who sold t-shirts, cookies, or flowers with us each week. Yet I still felt discouraged. I knew I was supporting a noble cause, but I felt like none of our efforts to organize events, raise money, and increase student participation were paying off.
Fast forward to this summer, when my friend Kayla contacted breast cancer survivor Victorianne Russell-Walton. Vicki runs an organization in Washington, DC that provides free mammograms to local women, with a focus on neighborhoods that might not otherwise have access to proper medical centers and care. She throws “P.I.N.K.I.E. Parties,” which are fun, upbeat events that not only help women receive mammograms, but also include makeovers, manicures, free food, and fun music.
We decided this was the perfect way for Breast Cancer Outreach to start focusing on more personal engagement in the cause, and Vicki was more than willing to accept our help. Organizing and setting up these events takes a lot of work, and Vicki throws these parties as part of the charity she founded and runs herself.
The first P.I.N.K.I.E Party I went to was about an hour commute, and we were at the hospital setting up before 8 a.m. After a few hours of moving tables, unpacking boxes, and ensuring that the entire venue was covered in pink, the first guests began to arrive. As the DJ blasted music, the ladies filed through the door and began lining up at the tables –marveling at their goodie bags, designing their own bandanas, and choosing polish for their manicures.
When the first guest emerged from receiving her mammogram, the crowd exploded into cheers. Seeing the woman’s beaming face as she danced down the “runway” past the cheering crowd, I found myself smiling just as wide. I forgot how early I had woken up, how hungry I felt, and how much schoolwork I had when I got home. All I could think about was what an amazing opportunity this was for these women, and how happy I was that I could be part of such an uplifting, empowering event.
When I think about my work with Breast Cancer Outreach now, I don’t think about the stressful days trying to plan yoga events or carrying tables across campus. I think about the amazing feeling I had at the P.I.N.K.I.E Party, and how excited I am for the parties this spring.
While we still sell t-shirts, cookies, and flowers on campus, I have a whole new perspective on these somewhat routine activities. . When I start to feel like I’m not making as big of an impact as I’d like, I remember the smiling faces of the ladies at the party– and I think that somewhere, some woman benefitting from the money we raise will share that same smile, even if I can’t see it.
(Editorial Intern, Spring 2016)