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Pink Out Zumba looks to spark awareness about breast cancer

| Monday, October 2, 2017

Over 1,000 members of the Notre Dame and South Bend community will gather on the football field at Notre Dame Stadium on Monday evening to partake in a Zumba class kicking off Breast Cancer Awareness month. 

Pink Out Zumba participants take a Zumba class sponsored by the Kelly Cares Foundation, which aims to raise awareness about pertinent health and education issues.Courtesy of Mike Bennett

Pink Out Zumba participants take an annual Zumba class on the football field at Notre Dame Stadium to mark the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which takes place each October.

Paqui Kelly, board president and co-founder of the Kelly Cares Foundation, said the event was initiated in 2014 and welcomes participants of all skill levels.

“I’m not a Zumba person,” Kelly said. “They made me take a class before the first year we did it, so I’ve probably done it less than 10 times in my life. But if you have people who are supporting you and they believe in what you’re doing, they’re going to come anyway.”

The event features local Zumba instructors who teach from stages on the field, speaking dance cues over the loudspeakers. In the past, the event has been popular among families in the community, as well as among Notre Dame students.

The director of marketing, communications and engagement for the Foundation, Becky Beckman, said she believes the community involvement is an important aspect of the event.

“We want to make sure that our events are able to reach all demographics and be accessible to everyone,” she said. “Because we have some fundraisers that are higher-ticket events and then we have a free event like this, and I think that it obviously shows that in the community, people want to get together. They want to support the cause.”

Since the Foundation began in 2008, Notre Dame has been a strong supporter and partner. Various events have been held at venues on the Notre Dame campus, and an upcoming event, the Power of Pink Cocktail Party, will be held in the new Corbett Family Hall on Oct. 11.

Kelly said she plans to take advantage of the stadium’s new features during Zumba.

“Part of it is the ambiance of the stadium,” Kelly said. “I’m really looking forward to this year because of the media board and the sound system. It’s been rocking at the games. I can’t imagine how the Zumba songs are going to be.”

Kelly said she and her husband, Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly, founded Kelly Cares shortly after she overcame her own battle with breast cancer. Kelly was first diagnosed in 2003 and again while in recovery, causing her to get a double mastectomy. Around this time, Paqui and Brian signed the paperwork to begin the Foundation.

“We started the Foundation with the idea of helping as many people as we could, in areas that we know are important, [like] health and education,” she said. “We ended up getting it much bigger than we would’ve thought, because of the position Brian holds here and what community we’re in. I don’t think that was an accident.”

South Bend resident Jan Rhodes said became involved with the Kelly Cares Foundation when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. Rhodes recently celebrated her fifth year being cancer-free.

Rhodes, who moved to South Bend at the age of seven and has worked in the medical industry throughout her life, began volunteering with the Foundation in 2012.

“I have met so many special people, some I’ve lost already. But it’s just a tight-knit society,” Rhodes said. “I think just being out there in the community, being an advocate, has really helped me get through my own personal situation.”

One month after her own diagnosis with cancer, Rhodes’s brother was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I just became very passionate about the cause,” Rhodes said. “I wanted to help get the word out there that, not only women, but men also do get breast cancer.”

Rhodes will be volunteering at Pink Out Zumba as she has at Kelly Cares events in the past.

“It’s a good feeling to be there, and of course to be out on the football field,” Rhodes said. “You’ve got a couple cheerleaders, you’ve got Paqui herself out there, so it’s just a great way to bring the community together.”

Online registrants for this year has already topped the number of attendees from last year, but the Kelly Cares Foundation wants everyone who is interested to come to the event.

“We’re not going to turn anybody away,” Beckman said.

Besides dancing, community members can tour a mobile medical unit which will be at the event, Kelly said. The Kelly Cares Foundation helped the St. Joseph Health Center finance the traveling unit, which has the technology to offer mammograms around South Bend.

“When the [mobile unit] comes up to your work, and there’s a schedule that says it’s coming to your work — then the excuse of ‘I don’t have time’ is hard to say,” Kelly said.

Although Beckman sees Pink Out Zumba as a fun family event, she said the Kelly Cares Foundation understands its potential for more.

“People aren’t even realizing that it’s an educational tool,” Beckman said. “We want to educate people, and it might just be Zumba, but it’s still putting in the forefront. I’m here because I’m supporting these initiatives.”

Because of her own battles with breast cancer, Kelly strongly advocates for preventative health and said she hopes that the event helps attendees understand the importance of personal health.

“Make sure you schedule your mammogram, know your body, know your health and know that it’s first and foremost,” Kelly said. “Because, if I would have waited, I just wonder how much longer.”

The Kelly Cares Foundation’s fourth annual Pink Out Zumba will begin at 5:30 p.m. Doors to the field open at 4:30 p.m., and the first 1,000 people to arrive will receive a free t-shirt, among other prizes.

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