The Linden High School girls volleyball team showed the power of pink on Wednesday, Oct. 24, by raising awareness and funds to fight breast cancer at its fifth annual “Pink Out” match.
The girls sold T-shirts and baked goods, and accepted donations throughout October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. They collected $1,400 that will be donated to the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. The team wore pink uniforms in place of their usual orange and black and the packed-to-capacity gym was decorated with pink balloons and streamers.
“The Linden community is truly a remarkable community to work in,” said girls volleyball coach Marissa DelloRusso. “During the entire month of October, I received numerous emails and donations from teachers all around the district as well as from parents that wanted to support and help the cause. It was truly a remarkable and humbling experience.”
Before their evening match against Elizabeth, the team honored breast cancer survivors, including Debra Sager, a teacher at Linden High School; Barbara Carter, mother of LHS security worker Lakhia Carter and grandmother of volleyball team member Ariana Eastwood; Kim Marie Kafalas, technology teacher at Schools No. 8 and 10; Melissa Mazurek, gifted and talented teacher at Schools No. 2 and 5; MaryAnn Devaney, mother of Linden High School social worker Ryan Devaney; and Jeanmarie Banks, mother of LHS student Christopher Banks.
In addition to raising funds and awareness, the project is also a learning experience for the student athletes. Each year, before the team starts collecting funds, the coaches and players sit down and discuss the significance of what they are doing.
“We discuss what breast cancer is and the detrimental effects it takes on a person’s life as well as their entire families’ lives,” DelloRusso said. “We discuss the severity of the disease as well as all of the side effects that this disease is associated with. We share stories about family members as well as people that we may know that went through this disease and discuss the amount of strength and courage these people must have exhibited in order to beat this disease.”
The entire Athletic Department of Linden Public Schools shows its support during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The LHS football team, girls soccer team, and cheerleaders, as well as the middle school cheerleaders all added pink to their uniforms during October. The Pink Out match is the centerpiece of that effort.
“We’re so proud of our girls volleyball players for taking on this selfless endeavor each year,” said Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi. “The Pink Out is such a great community event that raises money for a vital cause and teaches our students the importance of helping others. Coach DelloRusso does a fantastic job of putting it all together and of passing on vital off-the-court lessons to her players.”
DelloRusso said she owes a lot to the support of the district and high school administrations.
“They were entirely supportive and helpful of this event,” she said. “Whenever the team would ask for permission to do something or ask permission to raise funds for the event, the response was always ‘whatever you need’ and ‘how can we help.’ Everyone in the community and administration are entirely helpful and supportive of this event, and we are truly grateful to all of them.”