Alabama Gymnastics Power Of Pink
DCH Foundation | DCH Breast Cancer Fund
| Power of Pink Luminary
Pink shakers, pink shirts, even the occasional pink boa -
once a season, everyone puts on their best pink outfits, grabs their favorite
pink accessories and heads to Coleman Coliseum for a gymnastics meet. The pink
isn't as much a fashion statement, but a show of support for Sarah Patterson's
Power of Pink initiative, sponsored by Tuscaloosa Toyota, now in its eighth year.
It started with a
simple idea. Sarah Patterson wanted to help raise awareness for the fight
against breast cancer, a disease that has touched the lives of so many women
around the world.
"I realize that I am very lucky," Patterson said. "Not
only to be healthy, but also that I have access to excellent medical care. Not
everyone is so fortunate, and I wanted to do something that would help those who
need it most."
So she picked Alabama vs. Auburn on Feb. 4, 2005, and
designated it as the "Drive 4 the Cause" meet. She asked everyone to mark the
date and to "Think Pink, Wear Pink."
Since that first meet, the numbers
have been staggering. Over the past seven years more than 100,000 fans have
filled Coleman Coliseum with pink for the annual event, including an Alabama and
Southeastern Conference record 15,162 fans in 2006 and matching sell-outs of
15,075 in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
"I have been so amazed at how the
community has responded to this, how it has been embraced at every turn and how
it continues to grow day-by-day," Patterson said.
Within the UA
athletics department the event has grown from gymnastics to other sports to the
point where Alabama Athletics' Power of Pink, sponsored by Tuscaloosa Toyota,
has events three times a year, one in the fall, one in the winter and one in the
spring when UA women's teams host events.
The Power of Pink has gone
beyond UA athletics and Tuscaloosa, exploding into a nation-wide cause. Since
the Crimson Tide hosted its first meet in 2005, more than three dozen of the
nation's top gymnastics programs have either hosted or participated in a "pink"
meet, including every member of the Southeastern Conference. The Women's
Basketball Coaches Association started its pink initiative in 2007, encouraging
its members to participate in a "Think Pink" week that has now evolved into the
WBCA's "Pink Zone."
There have been similar efforts in women's soccer and
volleyball at the collegiate level as well. Even the NFL and Major League
Baseball have gotten into the act with NFL players wearing pink gloves,
chinstraps and shoes during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and MLB
players using pink bats on Mother's Day in a show of support in the fight
against breast cancer.
"When I look around at all the meets and events
and how this has spread through the sports world, it is an unbelievable
feeling," Patterson said. "It's such a vital cause and these events really bring
attention to the fight that goes on every day. I can't help but smile when I'm
out grocery shopping, or working out, or where ever I am, and I see someone
wearing a Tuscaloosa Toyota Power of Pink T-shirt, and there is rarely a day
that goes by when I don't see someone wearing one, because that tells me that
the message continues long after the event is over."
This year, Alabama
will host its eighth "Drive 4 the Cause" meet Friday, Feb. 17 when the Arkansas
Razorbacks come to Coleman Coliseum with their pink leotards.
this amazing platform at Alabama and I knew that it was something that we could
use to help the women of this community," she said. "If just one woman comes to
our meets and is helped by what we're doing, then it's all been worth it."
While those around her sing her praises for all she has done in the
community, especially in the fight against breast cancer, Patterson says she
receives so much more than she gives.
"I am so fortunate to not only be
in a position where I can offer this help," she said. "But to be able to work
with so many wonderful, dynamic people who are out there every day making a
difference in this community is truly amazing. I draw on their enthusiasm and
From the beginning, support for Patterson's Power of Pink
initiative was swift and widespread. She started to talk to the leaders in the
Tuscaloosa community about her idea and everyone she talked to got on board,
offering advice and support.
"So many people have worked extremely hard
and put in long hours for this worthy cause, this vital fight," Patterson said.
"What we all realize is that as Coach Paul Bryant was fond of saying 'The price
of victory is high, but so are the rewards.' I can think of no greater reward,
no better return on the investment of time and resources so many have put forth,
than beating this disease."
Among those who joined with Patterson in the
early days of the Power of Pink initiative was Larry O'Neal, who was DCH's Vice
President of Development at the time. O'Neal not only encouraged her when she
first brought the idea for the cause to him, but immediately went to work to
support her efforts.
"I will always be grateful to Larry O'Neal, for
listening to me and my vision for this event and believing in me and the power
of dreams," Patterson said. "Without Larry, none of this would have been
Through the auspices of O'Neal and the DCH Regional Medical
Center the DCH Breast Cancer Fund was set up within the DCH Foundation. The fund
is designed to provide disadvantaged women with the means for early detection
and treatment of breast cancer.
"Every three minutes a woman in the
United States is diagnosed with breast cancer, but how many women experience
problems that go undetected due to a lack of knowledge or limited financial
abilities to undergo testing?" Patterson said. "After watching first hand as
friends, family members and loved ones deal with the impact of this disease, I
felt it was important to use our sport, its visibility, and this event as a
platform to help raise the awareness of breast cancer and how women can protect
themselves from this disease."
Patterson also found a more than willing
partner in local businessman David DeSantis, the co-owner of Tuscaloosa Toyota.
"We have come so far because of the vision of David DeSantis," Patterson
said. "He is without a doubt the most charitable businessman that I have ever
been associated with. Everyone that has been associated with this endeavor will
tell you that David's drive and can-do spirit has been a driving force for the
Power of Pink."
Tuscaloosa Toyota's involvement has grown to the point where it is the
sponsor of Alabama Athletics' overall Power of Pink initiative which includes
all women's sports and nine events during the 2011-12 academic year.
Media coverage of the Alabama gymnastics team's Power of
Pink campaign has been extensive to say the least. Five times The Tuscaloosa
News has done a special "Gameday" section on the "pink" meet" as well as
providing Alabama front-page exposure the next day. And in October of 2010, the
entire Birmingham News went pink, not only producing a slate of stories on the
fight against breast cancer, including a story on Patterson's Power of Pink
efforts, but every page was printed on pink paper as well.
the sports editor of the Birmingham News, explained what they were going to do,
so I knew what was coming, but when I actually saw the paper ... it was just
incredible," Patterson said of the pink edition.
The coverage has not
only been state-wide, with stories in all Alabama's daily papers and on TV news
broadcasts, but nation-wide as well. USAToday has featured the meet extensively
and for three years in a row, the Alabama gymnastics program was featured in
Time magazine as part of Toyota's ad campaign that recognizes dealerships making
an impact in the community.
"To be in Time was certainly amazing,"
Patterson said. "But most importantly, it is yet another way to get the word out
about our fight against breast cancer."
The Power of Pink continues to
grow every day, and because of the way Tuscaloosa has taken to the Power of
Pink, women in the West Alabama community have someone in their corner in the
fight against breast cancer.
"Coach Sarah Patterson's Power of Pink
gymnastics meets have provided a highly visible vehicle to raise funds for a
very worthy cause - The DCH Breast Cancer Fund," O'Neal said. "Through her
efforts and initiative the DCH Foundation established the Breast Cancer Fund in
December 2004. Because of her vision and passion in fighting breast cancer,
lives will be saved. What better legacy can one create during a lifetime?"