February in Jenison is so much more than snow, freezing temperatures and Valentine’s Day. Here, for us, it’s PINK OUT season!
The girls and boys basketball teams and the hockey team were all decked in pink [there was even pink ice at the Georgetown Ice Arena!], the pep band’s tunes filled the room and everywhere there was pink. Last Friday a standing-room only, full-to-capacity crowd helped honor those fighting and overcoming battles with Breast Cancer. There were 10 honorees from the Jenison community, all in different stages of their Breast Cancer journeys but all humbled by the opportunity to be recognized for their bravery and courage. With a presentation hosted by Tom TenBrink in between the basketball games we learned about the history of PINK OUT and took some time to look around the crowd and realize the widespread impact of Breast Cancer on all of our lives.
Four of those honored are from the Bauerwood family and jokingly call themselves “Breast Friends.” Jan Stayley and Laura Wisneski are Bauerwood teachers [Jan also teaches at Rosewood and Pinewood] and Patti Menichini and Kim Francis are parents of Bauerwood students. All four of them were diagnosed within two years of each other and have made it a goal to come alongside each other throughout every stage of diagnosis and treatment.
“This isn’t a group you want to join but if you have to, this is a good one to be in.” says Laura. They encourage each other in small ways that have never felt small. They spend time together over dinner, send supportive emails, cook meals for each other’s families, send flowers or texts or notes of encouragement during the day and a trademark of this group you can’t miss: humor. Jan participated in the Avon Breast Cancer Walk in San Francisco where she came bearing a check for $10,000 raised by the community. “Everybody helped out [with fundraising]…our school family, the JPS family, everybody.” And Jan didn’t walk alone — she was joined by fellow teachers from Bauerwood! They also took time during the walk to spread the love and encouragement to Laura as she was in the middle of her treatment, helping her to be part of the group three time zones away.
Patti notes that they are the “friends you would’ve never been friends with if you didn’t have this common connection and we’ll always have that. You don’t realize you live in a small town until you need to be encouraged by a small town and then you never want to leave. No one was ever pushy. You were alone when you wanted to be alone and you were scooped up when you needed to be.” — Patti
Jan shares that she “personally doesn’t like to be known as a “survivor”. “I am a woman who has had Breast Cancer and now I can lend my efforts to somebody else. But we all want to say “thank you” and this event is the perfect way to do that.” All of the Breast Friends want to encourage anyone who is walking alongside a friend or family member with a Breast Cancer diagnosis to join the fight by cleaning their house, making a meal, sending a funny card and although, at times, it does seem excruciating, there’s another side to it and they “want to be examples of the positive.”
All of the honorees were visably touched by the applause and support from the crowd. The other amazing women being honored last Friday were: Michelle Telemaque, Nancy Van Duinen, Sue Kirvan, Cathie Corstange, Colleen Cusick and Doris Bowen. Many of these women took the opportunity of their introduction to encourage women to perform self exams and get their yearly mammograms. They were all escorted across the bridge to embrace the theme of “I’ll Be Your Bridge” by family members.
During Tom’s welcome we were reminded why we were there and taking time to honor those who fought Breast Cancer and are still fighting: “Who comes and why? Some people come to be honored, some people come to be supported, some come to show their support, some come to perform, some come to watch, some come to remember a loved one but one thing’s for sure: Everyone who enters leaves with a heart filled with love on a cold winter night in February in Jenison. This is our PINK OUT. This is the time when our community comes together to remember those taken, to honor the survivors and support the fighters. This is neighbors helping neighbors…”
Thank you to everyone involved in PINK OUT, especially our honorees. Your courage is inspiring and we stand with you. We are Jenison!