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Pink Game to benefit charity

Kristen Durbin | Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Fighting Irish football team will don its traditional blue and gold uniforms when it faces Stanford at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, but players will add a bold color to their game day look: pink.  

During the annual Pink Game, sponsored by the Kelly Cares Foundation (KCF) in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, players and coaches will accessorize with pink wristbands, shoelaces and other items to show their support for both the foundation and breast cancer awareness in general, KCF executive director Lisa Klunder said.

The Pink Game also gives the Foundation an arena for raising awareness of its commitment to health, education and community, and its particular focus on breast cancer education and research, Klunder said.

“This is a great opportunity for the foundation to get its name out there and let the community, fans and alumni know what we do,” she said. “Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this is a perfect platform to do that.”

Founded by Irish head coach Brian Kelly and his wife, Paqui, the Foundation dedicates much of its work to causes related to breast cancer awareness due to Paqui Kelly’s personal connection to the cause as a two-time survivor of the disease, she said.

“As part of the three pillars of the organization, we focus on breast cancer awareness, education and research,” she said. “We continue to help organizations in any of those facets, whether it’s assisting research facilities with funding or me doing speaking engagements and encouraging people to be proactive about their health.”

The Foundation also supports other non-profit organizations, Paqui Kelly said, as it recently donated $10,000 to Notre Dame swim coach Brian Barnes’s Coaches vs. Cancer event in honor of Barnes’s late wife, Alyssa.

This year’s Pink Game holds special significance for Paqui Kelly, as she celebrated being five years cancer-free in September.

“The first time around, I didn’t get to celebrate because I was diagnosed again before the five-year mark,” she said.
In addition to the visual display of support from the football team and sales of Adidas licensed pink gear on game day, Klunder said the

Foundation will be selling facemasks of Brian Kelly’s pink-visored face to fans as part of a partnership with the Logan Center in South Bend.

“The proceeds will be split 50-50 between the Logan Center and the Foundation. They do wonderful things for their clients, and in keeping with our pillar of community, we can give back to an organization that could use the additional funds,” she said.
“The Logan Center’s clients helped assemble [the masks], so they’ve been really proactive and involved in this. I don’t know if there are more or bigger Notre Dame fans than the Logan Center clients.”

The upcoming game is a continuation of the Foundation’s other breast cancer awareness efforts, including last week’s second annual Think Pink with Paqui golf outing, which hosted 250 guests and raised more than $75,000 in net proceeds, Klunder said.

Although the noncompetitive event was “lighthearted,” Paqui Kelly said its educational value was the real focus of the outing, as two Michiana oncologists spoke to attendees about breast cancer treatment, early detection and research.

“The event was quite successful, and we got positive feedback from people who came,” she said. “The oncologists discussed current treatments, and so many things have changed that what people were told 10 years ago is a lot different now. From my first to my second diagnosis, my treatments were very different.”

Paqui Kelly said her experience motivates her to share her story and raise awareness of the disease year round, not just in October.

“It’s personal to Brian and me. I feel like I had a red carpet with cancer treatment because we had everything we needed along the way,” she said. “It’s also very important to understand that breast cancer doesn’t just happen in October, but using the same platform of awareness as the country and the NFL helps.”

For more information about the Kelly Cares Foundation, visit kellycaresfoundation.org.