Lean on Me: Pink Out 2019

Last week, we were faced with yet another winter storm threatening to interrupt our annual Jenison Pink Out celebration. Regardless of what Michigan tried to throw at us, it gave me chills to see the the walls of our gymnasium stretched with a standing room only audience – just as it has been for eleven straight years.

Since the beginning, I have had the honor of being the emcee of Pink Out. I’ve heard the stories, witnessed firsthand the fight and seen the way families and friends in our community are moved to act. Just four months ago, that experience became very personal to me when my brother called to share that my sister-in-law had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Each year, we recognize community members who are courageous fighters, representing many others battling the war on cancer. All of them are extra-special reminders to our community of the value of bravery and perseverance. We are thankful for their willingness to share their stories and are blessed to walk this journey with them.

2019

Jenison Pink Out Honorees

Nicole Edward – Linda Ten Brink – Deb Leaf

Karine Rodriguez – Earl Hall – Josh Van Putten

2019 Pink Out Honorees

Linda Ten Brink

I asked my brother Mike and his wife, Linda TenBrink, to join the Jenison community for our Pink Out celebration because every warrior deserves to experience this amazing level of encouragement and support during their journey. And because Linda has embodied a fighter’s personality and a fierce courageousness from her initial diagnosis. She has looked cancer in the eye, called it out for what it is, and is determined to do whatever it takes to rid her body of “Chester” (the name that she has given to her cancerous tumor). Linda has used a tremendous sense of humor,  a “can do” attitude, and her competitive spirit to defeat this cancer that in her words, “invaded her body without her permission.” We are so proud of her warrior spirit!

13750005287cf450abb9518fac43c510831af7a9

Karine Rodriguez and Earl Hall

Karine Rodriguez and Earl Hall are both cancer victims, living in the same home. Karine was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2017, she went into remission the following year for 4 months. Sadly, the cancer returned this past summer. The after effects of chemo often leave her exhausted with scarce energy for work or social outings, so much that she was contemplating forgoing the treatment. However, since Pink Out came into her life – she has a renewed vigor to push through the treatments and is feeling supported (emotionally as well as financially) like never before. Keep on fighting, Karine! We’re with you every step of the way!

Karine was joined by her mom, Terri, who also attended Jenison, and Terri’s boyfriend Earl Hall. Earl had bladder cancer and is looking forward to a check up soon to confirm that the recent removal surgery was successful. Karine’s diagnosis flipped their world upside down. He expressed immense gratitude for the ongoing support from Pink Out and the manner of genuine care and kindness they felt. Earl has taken this kindness to heart and wishes to remind everyone that you never know what your neighbor might be experiencing. Kindness and respect go a long way. Thank you Karine and Earl for your positive spirit. It’s an honor to walk beside you.

1375001750b739c54572ad824ea38afe306e42ae1375004194362ad58070cacc4c428792c38131f713750112d41ac7e5ebec7dee581c7fa3e129a44b

Nicole Edwards

Nicole Edwards is a survivor! Her husband, Brad and son, Brody (Jenison, class of 2017), some friends and family members stood by her side as she shared her story. With no family history, Nicole wasn’t too concerned about missing a few routine mammograms, however at the suggestion of her doctor, she finally decided to go in. Just over a year ago, she was diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma, stage 0, but aggressive grade three). She described feeling alone and isolated in those first few months but came to quickly realize that the Jenison community was on her side. The Pink Out team and relationships her family had built with other Jenison families through her son’s sports teams really carried them through the physically and emotionally tough times. Nicole feels very fortunate to be so close to one of the best health care systems in the United States! And she wishes to acknowledge and thank Lemmen Holton Cancer Center with their amazing doctors and support staff. We couldn’t agree more! She also wants to use her journey to remind women to make time for routine checks and conversations with physicians!!

137500491dd72491680f1ac776b92fe7beae533a1375006086cef241f853f4e42eb8e424565e12c0

Deb Leaf

Deb is a 1985 Jenison graduate and has been on a long, courageous cancer journey including multiple diagnoses and surgeries. She is the guardian of her grandchildren, Stevie and LJ Leaf, who both attend Bauerwood Elementary. Deb was unaware of what Pink Out was and now considers them to be an amazing asset within our community, for which she is very grateful. Among other things, support from the organization and Jenison Schools helped provide tires for her vehicle and create some delightful memories this past Christmas. Deb was escorted by her grandchildren, her parents, her sister & her husband and her sister-in-law. Thank you Deb, for your fearless and brave demeanor as you continue your journey.

13750066faeceb4cfbca46515f8f15331e3416f751642192_10156937938098290_6695431338142466048_n

Josh VanPutten

“Van Putten Strong” is embroidered on the back of Kim Van Putten’s denim shirt. She wore it one year ago when the family gathered on the Jenison gym floor for their son, Shawn. Shawn was a 2014 graduate of Jenison, and last year he shared about his cancer journey. Harnessing that strength more than ever, they tackled the last year and she wore the shirt this past Friday night as the family stands on the Pink Out floor AGAIN this year. This time, celebrating the remission of son, Josh, Jenison class of 2010.

While the family was participating in the 2018 Pink Out ceremony, 11 months after Shawn’s diagnosis, older brother Josh had spent the day in the hospital about to receive his own life changing diagnosis.

Josh opened his remarks with the phrase, “An individual does not get cancer, a family does.” In the first moments of the diagnosis, his thoughts went to his infant daughter and his family – would they be ok? would they be strong enough to go through this all again? And here they stand in 2019, celebrating 4 months of remission for Josh, wanting to share the news that cancer did not win this battle, THEY did.

Their spirits were constantly lifted by the presence of the Pink Out team. The motto “No One Fights Alone” is a perfect description of their experience with Pink Out. Josh appreciates the assistance he received to keep his daughter and newly purchased home taken care of – and cherishes the support his extended family received as they cared for him.

“Pink is not a color I normally wear but I wear it tonight with pride and gratitude. Thank you for supporting Pink Out so they are able to support the Warriors.”

137500997d1b3a07dbb560673023caa4562c90131375010333b7e7bea1bb04a709824f6835b37009Without the community members, business partners and students of our community being deeply involved, we couldn’t do what we do for those who need help in their fight against cancer. Jenison has shown up for eleven straight years and given tremendous support. From the depths of my heart, I say, Thank you! Your presence, your generosity, and your willingness to walk alongside the courageous fighters in our community is a wonderful gift! There is no gesture too small – purchasing a shirt, donating funds, volunteering, and just showing up at Pink Out says we care and we have your back!  That is their gift; this is our legacy. In our community, nobody fights alone!

2019 Pink Out-063

The Jenison Men’s Basketball teams have been very busy this month as well. Varsity Coach, Dominic Allen detailed a new free throw shooting competition they hosted as a fundraiser opportunity. The players secured pledges and proudly presented $6,300 to Pink Out, over double their original goal! The players also braved the beginning of the polar vortex at the end of January to get the Pink Out flags up along Baldwin Street.13749889a4c39321ee7e5510451b129d1ee6e294

2019 Pink Out-064

This year, 3 sophomore girls launched a new Jenison tradition called “Senior Survivor”. Based on the television show, senior students attempt to raise money and compete in challenges to remain in the game. They had an amazing amount of fun and were proud to present a check for $5,419.14 to Jenison Pink Out. Thank you to the school chaperones who spent the night at school with them, the local business who kept them fed and most of all their friends and family who cheered them on and supported their efforts!137501524b250aec81c40c785df4903db57f30d2

2019 Pink Out-061

Words cannot express the level of gratitude I have for the leadership of our YEAR ROUND Pink Out committee: Moni Marlink, Katy Hevelhurst, Jean Krzewski, Donna Bergeon and Cindi Covell. These are some caring, compassionate women on a mission to care for their neighbors whenever it is needed; they are making a huge impact! THANK YOU!!137501152a8fc80a74ad4e09f24177e98b6dcf24

IMG_1945

Pink may be the color of the night, but we’re proud to support courageous fighters of all kinds of cancer! The Jenison Pink Out organization makes sure that NO ONE FIGHTS ALONE!!

137502173e56207500bfa222e51f1971e487dfc4

137502044d354ab85c419a8b6f3bbe206402db24

Seniors, Zac Avery and Conner Wood, close the ceremony by performing this year’s Pink Out theme song “Lean on Me”.

137502224cb82fdaa32881ea2771cd09a52861a72019 Pink Out-0232019 Pink Out-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

2019 Pink Out-021

Principal, Luke VerBeek accepts the Pink basketball in recognition of best Pink Out Spirit Day at Rosewood Elementary. Way to go kids – Rosewood Rocks!

13750124fc69f9769e6e605ae83c415356ad9189

 

Read about past Pink Out Honorees on previous PINK OUT blogs:

2018 |2017 | 2016 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012

Hockey KidCat nights at the George

It’s no secret – one of my greatest passions is being a part of a solid team that daily leads our amazing Jenison district. But the enjoyment doesn’t stop there… the final bell rings and our students move on to find their passion and pursue excellence in other areas. There is no shortage of opportunities to watch our students shine! It might be said that my favorite Jenison event to attend is, wherever I happen to be that day. And yesterday, as Michigan’s winter weather reappeared, it seemed appropriate, that I spent the evening at Griff’s Georgetown, attending the Hockey Kids Night game. It was a great time for students and their families, with a lot of fun activities planned. It also gave me a chance to get on the ice and compete in the frozen turkey toss game! 

This is the 22nd season for Wildcat Hockey; about 10 years ago, the team developed into a Co-Op combining players from Jenison, Zeeland West and Zeeland East, and they are putting together a highly successful season. Shortly before Christmas, they skated away as champions of the Holiday Classic Tournament. Last night, was particularly exciting as they fought hard for a big victory in the final seconds of the game.

46104330_10156811964244910_8378211151191736320_n

2018-2019 Team Photo by Larry Treece

Mirroring the Jenison Varsity Football Kid Cat program, our Hockey players were partnered with elementary classrooms and have spent time reading with our younger  students. The team has also hosted multiple “Kids Nights at the George” giving families a fantastic opportunity to enjoy an affordable night out and see some awesome Wildcat action on the ice.

136259139fe2c819f3bb50a27abf90f9b23f9958

Jenison Varsity Hockey Players Noah Sheldon & Jack Williams visiting and reading with the students in Jenny Dudick’s ECC classroom.

They are about 2/3 of the way through their season and if you haven’t made it to a game yet this year, don’t worry! Hockey players will be back in classrooms on Friday, January 25 and will host their final Kids Night that evening. Elementary students are free, concessions are tasty and more great activities are planned!

It gives me great joy to see our community of families and teachers take pride in and rally around all of our student performers (sports, fine arts, clubs, et al). Mark your calendars and keep scrolling to check out photos, media coverage of the team and the remainder of their schedule. Don’t miss the chance to support this awesome group of guys!

48408841_10157096983888678_4498772784209461248_o

136257973af00ec712182c7088ab4d6a137b010813625825ff5f2be7e84abf280797473f2c295b901362582090fcb212377a8fa3bf11697743fde67d

13625799eb651160fc67a44ff69659db18343e39

13625802097889a71aeb891e568ec338c9c9f5f6

Never know who might be at a game! Spiderman was an excellent cheerleader and got the crowd pumped with a tee shirt toss!

13625806104404e45711efe4193bad4a7b04cac513625808113c626e18c3ab1497de171d4481f81c13625832e356b893c03b53c86fbca0dac73044e513625843442cae5e6f5c658f581f482edc5921a113625794ed0bb61ea5e27848f33d1e6358e4777f136257914b277656536e1c26b6eee658cd18f4ec13625819f35f70d4b3557ccccd62538ecb47fe8b1362578702d28f9ae1329dfb1b164d19a1d7fb34Check out some other local media coverage of the 2018/2019 Jenison/Zeeland Varsity Hockey team.

November 29, 2018Jenison excited about start of hockey season, possessing depth at all positions

October 2, 2018: Capitals, Make-A-Wish give teen once-in-a-lifetime experience

September 7, 2018Jenison’s Cade Elliott stops pucks, soccer, and lacrosse balls without letting diabetes stop him

Click HERE for the complete Jenison Varsity Hockey Schedule.

KidCAT Players Inspire

On the surface, it may seem like another celebration for the football team but look closer and you’ll see an initiative bringing a community together and modeling some pretty amazing attributes.

The KidCAT program started about 10 years ago when a teacher had the idea to foster a connection between the elementary students and the high school, with community events such as football games. It’s not always natural – especially for families who don’t know any players personally; however it has grown to be something that the varsity players and the elementary students look forward to each year.

IMG_6008

Sully Russ is one of 20 seniors on the team this year. He enjoyed sharing a visit with his Bauerwood friends. Go #24!

Early in the football season, classroom teachers adopt a player; sometimes a teacher is able to choose a player that once sat in their elementary rooms. The teachers and players alike, really appreciate having the opportunity to reconnect. This year, all 43 Varsity players were paired up with an excited classroom of little Wildcats ready to keep this tradition going. Teachers guide the young students in thoughtful exercises as they get to know their KidCAT player, then share notes, cards of encouragement, and small treats throughout the season.

And the Varsity guys get to give back as well. They are able to be a positive role model; sharing their character and work ethic in return. On the big day of the KidCAT football game, all the players go visit their elementary friends and spend some time with them. When the players arrive, the kids are star struck and in awe like a celebrity has entered their little world! It’s awesome to see the guys having a good time with some silly questions and leading the way for future generations as they promote literacy, community and kindness. As October is Anti-Bullying Month, we are proud to watch as the football team has also joined the Stomp Out Bullying, anti-bullying campaign this year. I’m proud of the leaders we have in this team.

The grand finale is when the students and their families rally to cheer on their KidCAT player at the Varsity football game. At game time, students are grouped in sections with their schools and it’s so fun to see our young fans totally engaged in the game while they cheer for their Wildcat. 

Jenison Walk (1 of 4)

Senior, Kyle Nott leads the pack through the student tunnel at the KidCAT game, October 12. Photo Courtesy of Damion Van Slyke Photography

 

 

 

 

 

Home Field Advantage for AD, Tim Ritsema

1270991261e92b45cadffeb0d92fe70aa2494837Tim Ritsema, our new Senior High Athletic Director, may be wrapping up his second full week on the Jenison High School campus but he is no stranger to these halls. A Hope College and Grand Valley State University grad, Tim actually started his career with us and is happy to be suiting up in Wildcat green again.

During that early decade, Tim was teaching PE, coaching Track and Cross Country; he also spent two years as the Jenison Junior High Athletic Director. Most recently, Zeeland East had the pleasure of Tim as their Athletic Director for 14 years. Those that worked closest with him during that time, describe him as one that will be remembered as the role model he is – as a father and a fan of athletics; while understanding and achieving a healthy balance.

Walking onto the track at Wildcat Stadium for the first time in 14 years was a surreal experience for Tim. He fondly reflects on former athletes and memorable contests, but it’s ultimately about the relationships. Not only with coaches and other staff, but the kids. Tim has such a heart for the student athlete and says he can’t imagine doing anything different. He will definitely acknowledge that “wins are fun, of course, but trophies fade.” His real inspiration comes from connecting with student athletes 5-10 years later. Finding out they are doing great things with their lives; “that just jazzes me up, and I am not ready to be done with that.” He recalls numerous valuable lessons in his upbringing when adults took an interest and invested in his life. He feels that being present and involved in students’ lives is what drives him daily

1270990634eeaf829b196e46a76d9eb0cbf3eb83.jpg

Time has obviously passed and some things have changed (some of my former students are even coaching here now!) but I feel so at home and one thing remains, Jenison has strong programs and an outstanding reputation in so many areas; I intend to build on that momentum with new and fresh ideas. I am so excited to be back and I look forward to applying my years of experience gained at Zeeland.

Tim Ritsema, Jenison High School Athletic Director.

It is an honor to be able to offer a quality athletic experience that functions as an extension of our fantastic educational and fine arts programs – and that we have Tim back on our home turf! Let me officially say “Welcome (home) Tim!”, the Jenison families are blessed to have you lead our student athletes, teaching them character, commitment, a true sense of sportsmanship and an appreciation for that healthy balance.

We’ve Got Bowling Royalty at Jenison High!

Brother and sister team, Nick and Lauren Slagter come by their incredible bowling talent naturally. They also come from longtime bowling royalty. Their grandmother and dad are both in the Grand Rapids Bowling Hall of Fame!

Their dad [who has a 230 average and has bowled 25 perfect games!] and their maternal aunt coach the Jenison Bowling Team. Their family bowls together in a league on Thursday nights and while their mom grew up in a bowling strong family, their dad found his passion for bowling when he met their mom.

In bowling competition, similar to Olympic gymnastics, athletes compete at both team and individual levels. This past bowling season, both the girls and boys teams won the OK Black conference. Nick finished in 14th for individuals, losing to the eventual second place winner. Lauren may have lost to the eventual winner in the semifinals, but she made it farther than any other bowler in the history of JPS! The girls team qualified 1st in states and made it to the semifinals, which is also the farthest that any bowling team has ever made it in the history of Jenison!

Next year both Lauren and Nick are looking forward to keeping the teams intact, as there are no current seniors moving on. “It’ll be the same team, with more experience. We’ll be better equipped for next year and it’ll be a lot of fun.” They want to give special recognition to their teammates: Sarena Overbeek, Anna Bartz, Dustin Smith, and Tyler Miller.

Nick tries to take it in stride when he gets grief from his friends about bowling not being a real sport. He knows it’s a mental game more than anything else. “It takes precision accuracy and just two or three shots can put your team ahead.” Lauren likes to cite her fifth grade paper, “Bowling is a Sport” for evidence when this argument arises.

The siblings may be busy with their bowling schedules, but they make time for other sports as well. Nick also plays on the Jenison baseball team and while he knows they are “two very different sports, but the pressure is all the same; they build off one another and make me better as an athlete.” Lauren plays softball and adds, “You have to take your momentum from your bowling season and bring it into other sports and we have to bring that success and confidence into softball and baseball.”

As a junior, Nick is thinking about college and hoping for scholarships to allow him to bowl at the collegiate level. Lauren is a sophomore and acknowledges that she “has time” but it has crossed her mind to play softball as well as bowl when she gets to college. She wants to give a shout out to her family for always being a strong shoulder to cry on when it comes to school, sports, life, and school. “We’re stuck with each other, but we’re competitive and have fun.” Nick wants to make sure that his fifth grade teacher, Mr Diekman knows he made an impact on Nick’s life. “He’s taught me more than just school, he’s taught me about life – to stay positive – and I really appreciate that.”

Athletic Director Kevin VanDuyn knows JPS is lucky to have these two: “It is quite something to have the top bowler in the conference, by average, from both our boys and girls team.  What is more amazing is to have the top bowler from each be a brother and sister.  Congratulations to Nick for finishing the year with a conference leading 212 average and his sister Lauren with a 190 average.  The best news is they both come back next year!”

Lauren and Nick want everyone to know that bowling is really accessible for adults and kids alike. Lauren says, “You can bowl once or twice a week and get really good so it’s easy for kids to pick it up.” Nick adds, “Make sure you stay positive through the ups and downs because eventually you will come out on top.” [And that’s just good advice no matter what you’re doing!]

Congratulations, Nick and Lauren! Your talent and accomplishments not only make us proud but we can’t wait for next year’s season! Go Wildcats!

Pink Out 2018!

There may have been a snow day last Friday, but it didn’t stop the Jenison family from coming out to paint the High School gym pink!

Celebrating the tenth anniversary, the Pink Out committee chose to expand their focus to include honoring Jenison community members dealing with other types of cancer, while acknowledging that their roots remain in the fight against breast cancer. In the ten years since Pink Out began, they have raised over $100,000, recognized over 100 warriors and sold 15,000 Pink Out t-shirts.

Karen Koekkoek knows what it’s like to fight against breast cancer but she never expected it to happen again after finding her first lump at the age of nineteen. Now in her early 60’s, she was vigilant with her mammograms, self-checks, and doctor’s appointments. But despite her best efforts, she was diagnosed in August of 2016 and the type of cancer she had was called, “aggressive and invasive”. She received chemo for five months, radiation five days a week for six weeks and has experienced the first part of a double mastectomy. Karen’s daughter, Sherrie VanManen, says it’s a “huge honor” to be recognized by the Pink Out team and to be taken under their wing with support. Karen adds, “Faith over fear quickly became my motto. February of 2018, 125 appointments later, I am a survivor, cancer free!” We celebrate with you, Karen!

2010 Jenison graduate, Marcy VanderMeer was a senior when Pink Out first began. She was only 22 when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in April 2015. “It feels overwhelming to be an honoree. I am thankful to the committee for all the ways they supported me and my family.” In the first six weeks after hearing the news, Marcy says she was in shock but there was already so much happening in the Jenison community. There was a spaghetti dinner and chili cook-off fundraiser and even a neighborhood elementary buddy raising money for Marcy’s treatment. “Although fear was present in my life and I lost many friends along my three year journey, being part of this community has made all the difference in my ability to keep moving forward.”

Unfortunately, children in our community are not immune to cancer’s reach. Sam Lewinski is a four year old at the ECC and Shawn VanPutten is a 2014 Jenison graduate, both of whom are in remission. Shawn says, “Jenison Pink Out has offered support to me and my family during our journey: cards to let me know they were thinking of me, texts to my mom to let her know she was not alone and to provide words of encouragement. They also provided financial assistance for my ever-mounting medical bills, so thank you for supporting the power of pink because the warriors need to know that no one fights alone.”

Sam’s mom spoke on his behalf while Sam stood proudly on the podium. Through tears, she described their journey with Wilms Tumor, a kidney cancer and thanked the community for surrounding them through this struggle. “Just nine months ago, Sam finished his final chemo and was told there is no evidence of disease. During his treatment, he had several surgeries, radiation, and chemo. During that time, this community proved itself time and time again. We moved from Ohio ten years ago and I can truly say that this battle could not have been fought three hours from family without this community and the Pink Out community that showed up even we didn’t know them. We can now call Jenison our home and our family.”

Finally, warrior Jody Heyboer shared her journey with stage three colorectal cancer. Less than a year ago, Jody learned the news of her diagnosis and she quickly heard from the Pink Out team and “for the past ten months ,their support has been nothing short of amazing. When you don’t have cancer or are not directly affected by it, it’s hard to understand. Pink Out understands. Please know, the money you donate to this organization goes to help people in the community affected by cancer and I cannot being to express my gratitude for all those connected to Pink Out.” Jody learned in January that her tests revealed no evidence of disease, however, her fight against cancer isn’t over just yet. As of two days prior to Pink Out she learned cancer had returned and the Pink Out committee presented her with a check towards her medical expenses and reminded her that she is not alone.

Each year, this event serves as a celebration of those who warrior on and takes time to pause for those that we remember. We are grateful to all of those who braved the snow, but especially to those who brave the fight against cancer!

2018 Distinguished Honorees:

Dave Huyser           Sam Lewinski          Jody Heyboer          Marcy VanderMeer          Karen Koekkoek         Shawn VanPutten

Warriors: Karen Koekkoek, Marcy VanderMeer, Jody Heyboer, Sam Lewinski, Shawn VanPutten, Dave Huyser

You are all warriors and Jenison is proud to fight alongside each and every one of you! You are not alone! Thank you, Jenison community for your ongoing support of Pink Out – your partnership is vital to sustaining our warriors!

 

 

Stand By You: Pink Out 2017

miii3935The High School gym was, once again, a sea of pink on Friday night as the Jenison community showed their support for those fighting the battle of breast cancer.

This year, there were eight honorees: Jill Barnes, Jane Carlson, Carolyn DeJong, Dianne Duch, Michelle Gradisher, Shirley Kerkstra, Joni Otto, and Stephanie Tuttle [not necessarily pictured in this order].

miii3411For Michelle [3rd from right], she was overwhelmed by being an honoree but once she arrived to the “pinked out” gym that night and started getting to know some of the other honorees, those fears were gone. Michelle was diagnosed through a mammogram that she desperately wanted to avoid that particular day but chose to go through with it. The office was calling her to return to the hospital before she even got home that day. On March 31 of last year she underwent a double mastectomy which she describes as a “no brainer” based on the test results and family history of breast cancer. She is incredibly thankful for her amazing support team and encourages women not to avoid those important mammogram appointments!

miii3660Joni Otto [1st on the left] was a Jenison teacher for 22 years and is thankful for the science and availability of genetic testing, which she believes is a gift we all need to take advantage of. Joni discovered she had breast cancer and opted for the lumpectomy. Meanwhile, she had genetic testing done which revealed she was at a high risk for breast cancer, so she chose to go a step further and have a bilateral mastectomy to prevent any further occurrences which seemed likely in light of the test results. It wasn’t an easy decision for Joni but she felt that it was the right thing to do to protect herself and her family. She is hoping that her former students will dig deep into their pockets to donate to the Pink Out cause on her behalf!

miii3685Stephanie and Shirley [3rd and 4th from the left respectively] are daughter and mother honorees and Stephanie also says that genetic testing is an essential and lifesaving aspect to her story as well. Her mom Shirley is a breast cancer survivor [and three time honoree!] and Stephanie didn’t want her family to go through another season of cancer. She believes her mom feels guilty for passing on the gene but she also sees genetic testing as a gift, especially when it revealed the BRCA gene which can lead to breast and ovarian cancers. She also urges readers to consider genetic testing if you have a family history of breast cancer as the preventative measures “are much better than going through treatment.”

[If you’d like to explore genetic testing, you can do so locally at Spectrum Health. Please note – this is not an endorsement, merely a local resource.]

miii3680Three of our honorees discovered their cancer through self exams and took a moment in their introductions to make sure and encourage women in the audience to remember to do this. Everyone stressed the importance of regular mammograms and the Spectrum Health mobile mammography unit was in the parking lot, available for tours!

miii3770Finally, High School Principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, introduced Cindi Sigmon as a special honoree. Cindi has been battling Multiple Myleloma since January 2016. “She has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy and received a stem cell transplant this summer” and “for the past 21 years, she has shown love to the students, staff, community members and parents that have traversed the halls of Jenison High School.” Cindi was escorted to the floor by her husband and received a standing ovation for her courage, service, and strength.

All of our Pink Out Honorees are extra-special reminders to our community of the value of perseverance and we thank them for being willing to come forward and share their stories. May you and your support teams know how important you are to all of us!

Thank you to all of the Pink Out volunteers, financial supporters, and participants who came out last Friday to make this another great year! It’s a powerful message we send each year to those who are struggling as well as those have suffered a loss. Together, we will Stand By You. We are Jenison!

miii3626

miii3903

miii3535

miii3605

miii3641

miii3670

miii3680

miii3693

miii3720

miii3939

miii3926

miii3637

miii3538

miii3958

 

Homecoming 2016

miii7641The weather may have had us all bundled up in scarves and blankets this Homecoming weekend but it didn’t stop our Wildcat pride! We hope you enjoy this post – a journey through Homecoming through pictures and take a minute to congratulate our Jenison football team on a winning season and record so far of 5 – 2!

miii7626

miii7580

miii7609

miii7592miii7653

miii7637

miii7686

miii7314

miii7311

miii7562

miii7696

miii7732

miii7901

miii7880

miii7670

miii7618

miii8123

miii8020

miii8133

miii8323

miii9049

Homecoming King Tom Docsa and Queen Brianne VanDyke

miii8615

miii8295

miii8427

Pink Out 2016: Count On Me

MIII7092

Once again the Jenison community came out in droves to support those in our community surviving and thriving in the face of breast cancer. Eight Jenison women in different stages of their fight were honored in a gym that was filled to capacity with supporters and fellow fighters.

MIII6934The women’s basketball team kicked off the athletic festivities in what seemed like it would be a dramatic come-from-behind victory against Lowell. But, despite a win not being in the cards for the women, it was still a great day to be a Wildcat!

In between the basketball games the crowd was introduced to Sister Sue Tracy who is a five-time cancer survivor and she shared a special word of encouragement meant to remind each one of us to “Celebrate Life”! She had the entire gym cheering out the letters for her message including:

MIII6742Count your blessing, not your worries. Express your feelings honestly. Learn to laugh and laugh to learn. Endure what is necessary. Be open and flexible. Remain in charge, networking with family and doctors. Accept and face your own mortality. Treasure each day and each experience. Exercise your mind body and spirit as you are are able.

Sr. Sue has been fighting three different types of cancer over the last 30 years. She says that cancer has made her glad to be alive and sensitive to others. “We all belong to this club that no one would ever want to be part of but here we are. I have found cancer to be much more life-giving even in the midst of being life-threatening. There have been opportunities to deepen in wisdom and it helps us to focus our priorities, to be empathetic to others, a compassion that comes because we don’t have any certainty about a long, long life. I only have today and what can I be and do in that. An event like this calls us all together in support and the Jenison support of each other is remarkable and very special.”

MIII6510The honorees of this year’s Pink Out are: Sharon Aalderink, Karen Meyers, Paula Bowen, Kristin Millard, Shirley Kerkstra, April Spohn, Jill LaMaire and Brandi Tyler [not pictured in this order]

They were all introduced to the crowd and walked across the bridge with family members by their side. Some of them were very recently diagnosed and facing the journey ahead while other honorees are survivors with cancer in their rear view mirrors and words of encouragement for those around them. Their introductions also gave them the chance to say “thank you” to friends, coworkers and family members for their love, meals, fundraisers and prayers.

MIII7034Other highlights from the entire Pink Out event included: the Jenison JV and Varsity Dance Team performing to “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars, pink ice at the varsity hockey game, a raucous high school assembly at the end of the school day and, of course, a sea of pink everywhere you looked throughout the district. A special “thank you” to the Lowell community as well for sharing in our special day and we tip our hats to your Pink Arrow event during football season!

Eleven year survivor, Shirley Kerkstra, says that if she could tell those with a new diagnosis anything it is, “You make it. It’s an emotional roller coaster but you make it.”

Thank you to all of our volunteers, sponsors, supporters and of course, our honorees, for making this event such a special day for the district. And remember, no matter where you are on the journey you can Count On Me. We Are Jenison!

MIII6703

MIII6728

MIII6880

MIII6828

MIII6747

MIII6194

MIII6065

MIII6094

MIII7182

MIII7326

MIII7380

MIII6013

Junior High Football Player Breaks Through Glass Ceiling

158WVHL112Eighth grader, Megan Strick, doesn’t really know what the big deal is.

She started playing football with her older brother and his friends when she was very little and fell in love with it. This passion led her to join the flag football team in first grade where she was dedicated for the next two years.

She loved it so much that she and her best friend, Macy, joined the third grade tackle football team through Cub Football and continued with that team through sixth grade.  Megan says her parents are “very supportive and they just love the sport and watching me.”

158WVHL099With the 2015 season wrapped up, Megan capped off her second year on the Jenison Junior High Football team as the first and only girl to play on the team but she’s humble about her place in Jenison football history: “It’s really fun and it’s nice to get to know all the guys.”

When Megan joined the Junior High team it was no surprise to the coaches. “They knew about me because I’ve been playing for so long and they were really happy and excited.”

MIII2007Megan plays Middle Linebacker, which, for those non-football fans, the goal of the linebacker is to provide either extra run protection or extra pass protection based on the particular defensive play being executed. It’s not an easy position and she is in every defensive play.  When the team is winning she gets to step in as Running Back and “score some touchdowns.”  If you think her teammates treat her any differently because of her gender, think again. “The guys treat me just like any other teammate, they treat me like a sister and I don’t have any hard times with them.”

When matched with other teams Megan doesn’t worry. “Some of the kids on the other teams want to hit me really hard but when they go through the game they know that I’m there to play and win.”

Megan does her best to be a well-rounded, star student. “I think that school is really important and I’m motivated by my coaches and teammates.  I like to play because I like to hit hard.”  Megan loves to play other sports as well including softball, basketball and volleyball.

According to one of Megan’s coaches, Karl Redmer, Megan’s role on the team has been integral.  “Megan has been an asset to our team and program. She models hard work for others, has a great attitude, is a team player, and executes every component of the game exactly how she is coached to do so….her contributions and commitment can not be measured.”

MIII2040In case there are other young women at Jenison considering their own career in traditionally male dominated sports, Coach Redmer says, “Any female that is thinking about joining a male dominated sport will have great success like Megan if they are willing to model the same characteristics that she has for the last few years.”

“I think most girls should join — girls can do anything they want to, boys aren’t bigger and better than girls, girls can do anything if they put their heart into it.”

Thanks to Megan, the phrase, “you play like a girl” has taken on a whole new meaning.

Way to go Megan!  We’re proud to call you a Wildcat!

MIII1889

MIII2046