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ND Volleyball: Team fights breast cancer

Meaghan Veselik | Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Irish are fighting for a cause this weekend as they host a “Dig Pink” match Sunday against Louisville to raise breast cancer awareness and benefit the Side-Out Foundation and the Secret Sisters Society of South Bend.

“Breast cancer is something that has affected so many people,” Irish coach Debbie Brown said. “Everyone on the team has had someone in their lives affected by this disease. It is an important cause that’s close to all of us, especially since it affects women so prominently.”

This is the third year that the Irish (9-4) have hosted a match to help the battle against breast cancer, the past two years holding “Dig For the Cure” events to benefit the Susan G. Komen For the Cure group. In 2007, Notre Dame raised $6,000 for the group and over that amount in 2008.

Not only did the Irish choose to become involved in the battle against breast cancer because it affects so many women, but also because one of their players’ mothers was undergoing chemothrerapy during the 2007 season. 2008 grad Mallorie Croal’s mother was diagnosed in 2006, and after a long fight with the disease, was recovering by the time of the 2008 match.

This year, the Irish are allying with the Side-Out Foundation, an organization established in 2004 to raise money and awareness about breast cancer through volleyball. Much like a side-out occurs when one team wins a point while its opponent is serving, and therefore recovers the serve and control of play, the group uses the name “Side-Out” to support those fighting cancer and help them regain control of their own lives.

Dig Pink is a breast cancer awareness rally held across the country throughout October to raise awareness and funds. Hundreds of high school and college matches are played across the country to help educate and raise funds to wipe out the disease and allow those affected by it to fight back. A few of Side-Out’s goals this year are to raise $1,000,000 and have 3,000 teams participate in Dig Pink matches throughout the year. So far, they have a total 755 teams participating, including 270 colleges and 471 high schools.

“Each of the players has been asked to try to find 10 people to go online and donate, either a pledge for digs or a solitary donation,” Brown said. “They’re doing all kinds of things to raise awareness and get people to the match. The more people there are the better it will be. Our goal is to raise $10,000.”

Notre Dame is also partnered with the Secret Sisters Society of South Bend, a group Brown was excited to join forces with her team. The Secret Sisters Society allows low-income women, ages 40-49, to receive a screening mammogram that they would not otherwise have the ability to pay for. These women all would qualify for the existing Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and receive a mammogram once they reach 50.

However, the Secret Sisters Society believes in early detection and raises funds and partners with St. Joseph’s Hospital to help save women’s lives by making screening mammograms available to these women.

This weekend, the team will be showing their support on the court by wearing white jerseys with pink letters and numbers. Louisville had their own “Dig For the Cure” match last week and will be sporting pink jerseys on Sunday. Free “Dig Pink” shirts will be given to early arrivals, while pink Crocs and another “Dig Pink” T-shirt will be sold at the event with all proceeds benefitting breast cancer research.

Notre Dame will also be holding a silent auction, and Brown will be pledging $5 per dig made by her Irish players. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Secret Sisters Society, and online donations can be made to the Side-Out Foundation at: https://www.side-out.org/application/teams/team_page/1301

“Louisville is our biggest conference rival and the team will be fired up anyway,” Brown said. “This just gives an extra significance to the match. We’d be excited no matter who we were up against. We think it’s a great cause.”