Windermere Prep celebrated breast cancer survivors and raised money for research during its ninth annual Dig Pink volleyball game.
As soon as Shannon Work’s name was called, the crowded gym at Windermere Prep clapped with thunderous applause.
Walking out onto the wooden court, she was met with a bouquet of pink roses and the biggest of hugs from daughters Danielle and Natalie — who were decked out in their bright pink volleyball jerseys.
Though she overcame her breast cancer years ago, the school’s recognition of Work — and the other 15 women honored Friday, Oct. 4 — was a moment that means more than anyone can imagine.
“It’s amazing,” Work said. “I know that the year I was diagnosed was the first year that we did the Dig Pink — it gave me a lot energy and a lot of hope, and I’ve been here for every single one of them. It’s a really important part of the Windermere Prep community and I’m so blessed to have been a part of it the last nine years.”
The old adage of “some games just mean more” rings true for Windermere Prep’s Dig Pink volleyball game, because it’s more than just a game — it’s a celebration of life.
The gym is filled to the rafters with varying shades of pink, as money is raised left and right through different means. Over in the corner there’s a bake sale going on, while at the front table pink shirts are being sold.
Though Friday night’s game was the peak of the Lakers’ festivities, it also was the culmination of a week’s worth of work for the team and the school.
“During the lunch blocks we were also selling different items to raise money for breast cancer awareness — so we had scrunchies for sale, we had wrist bands and we also took donations, as well,” Danielle said.
When it was all said and done, Windermere Prep helped raise more than $12,000 — a little more than $1,000 was raised single handedly by the team in the week leading up to the game. The money will go directly to the Orlando-based Compassionate Hands and Hearts — an organization of cancer survivors who help those dealing with cancer.
While the experience of meeting breast cancer survivors is a big part of what Head Coach Christina Koch hopes her girls get from the annual event, there’s also the hope that they walk away with more appreciation for life.
“It kind of humbles the girls and it reminds them that life is precious, but that there are also bigger things out there to worry about than the fact that some boy is not paying attention to them,” Koch said. “The world is a lot bigger than what’s inside these four walls.”
A PERSONAL CAUSE
For some members of the Lakers’ volleyball team, Friday night’s game was personal.
The special pink jerseys worn by the Work sisters, Grace Grinnals and Julia Kane were more than just brightly colored cloth — they represented family.
Before the game, Kane was one of those players to walk out to mid court to hand out a bouquet of roses to a loved one — in her case, it was her grandmother, Mary Wilkinson.
Both of Kane’s grandmothers have fought breast cancer in their lives, with Wilkinson’s diagnosis and recovery occurring two years ago. Though her grandmother lived far away, Kane still remembers the stress that permeated around her.
“I did see how it affected my mom when she first found out the news — she was just always really worried and upset,” Kane said. “I saw what a toll it put on her and my grandmother, so that kind of trickled down to me and it was upsetting, but they both had a really positive attitude the entire time, so that was good to see.”
Wilkinson has been in complete remission since that diagnosis two years ago. Having her grandmother there to watch her on the court — playing for both her team and those survivors in the crowd — is what the Dig Pink game is all about, Kane said.
“I know that it’ll mean a lot for her to see me playing my hardest and fighting,” Kane said. “It was obviously a hard time for all (the) survivors to go through, and just showing that we care about it and care about them.”