In the Pink – Defensive backs Tim Hackett, left, and Conrad Mims wore pink gloves to show their support at Notre Dame’s first Pink Out. Click here for more photosJoe Moore photo
In the Pink – Defensive backs Tim Hackett, left, and Conrad Mims wore pink gloves to show their support at Notre Dame’s first Pink Out. Click here for more photos
Joe Moore photo

What began as a suggestion by the vice principal quickly and steadily gained momentum.

By the time it was over, a community had demonstrated a keen awareness about a disease that wreaks havoc on victims and their families.

“It has been a beautiful thing to watch,” said Diane Wargo. “The way everyone came together and supported the cause was outstanding.”

For the past 22 years, Wargo has been an English and performing arts teacher at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville. She is also the longtime cheerleading coach.

When Notre Dame vice principal Joan Pilkington told all of the moderators at Notre Dame that they needed to each choose a different cause to become involved with, Wargo and her cheerleaders decided to organize a fundraiser to combat breast cancer.

“It was a little gem of an idea,” said Wargo.

Eventually, the early enthusiasm of the 22 members of the Notre Dame cheerleading squad morphed into an express freight train. Among the highlights was the creation of a banner placed atop a Notre Dame School hallway that reminded everyone that, since October has been deemed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a fundraiser was to take place at one of ND’s football games. As the color pink symbolizes breast cancer awareness, the cheerleaders labeled the event the first “Pink Out” at Notre Dame, and it was requested that spectators wear at least one pink clothing item.

    Click here for photos of the event

If people wished, they could request prayers for loved ones by penning the name of anyone they knew who was afflicted with the disease that, according to breastcancer.org, strikes about 1 out of 8 women in the United States.

Before long, the banner was filled with hundreds of names. One in particular left Wargo in tears.

“Someone simply wrote, ‘My mom,’” she said. “I think that just summed it up. You never know what burden people are carrying, and here was a student whose mother has breast cancer writing those two little words.”

When Notre Dame hosted West Windsor-Plainsboro South Oct. 9, the stands were packed. Not surprisingly, the predominant color that enveloped the energetic crowd was pink. Many were donned in pink tee shirts that were sold both at school and at the game; so many were bought that the supply ultimately sold out. As a perk, Notre Dame Principal Mary Liz Ivins allowed students to wear their pink shirts along with the rest of the regular school uniform.

The Irish football team certainly did its part to maintain a sense of communal euphoria. With junior Ransford Quarrie contributing 133 yards and two touchdowns, Notre Dame raised its record to a perfect 50 with a 27-7 victory. The Irish ignited the stands when quarterback Anthony Perna connected with Eric Boyden for a 44-yard touchdown completion on the fifth play of the contest.

Notre Dame senior cheerleader Ali Holden, team co-captain along with senior Diamond Holland and senior Liam Cusack (one of three male stuntmen whose chief responsibility is to catch the Notre Dame cheerleaders who are tossed leap high into the air by their teammates), appreciated seeing a host of masculine football players wear pink gloves.

Along with Wargo, Holden lauded Notre Dame’s maintenance staff that had painted pink ribbons on the grass in both end zones.

“We were all on the same page,” said Holden. “I think everyone understands the significance of this disease. So many people are affected by it, and at some point, most people will know someone they care about who has the disease.”

Holland agreed.

“I’m really proud of our squad, and I am really proud of our entire school,” said Holland. “It just goes to show you that when you put everything into a cause, great things can happen.”

At halftime, the ND cheerleaders, all dressed in pink legwarmers, honored four breast cancer survivors, whom they referred to as “heroes” as part of their “Cheer for a Cure” repertoire, by presenting them with pink flowers.

“Everyone believed in this,” said Wargo. “Everyone jumped on board.

Players had stickers on their helmets.

Parents donated different things. It was just incredible. This being the first time out, we didn’t put any year on the tee shirts because we were not aware of how successful the fundraiser would become. I think we’ll be doing this every year.”

Wargo estimated that about $6,000 was raised by the cheerleaders, and the money will be donated to the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in Mercer County.

To show support, perhaps some of us might find a pink check.

John Knebels can be reached at jknebs@aol.com.