By Michele J. Kuhn
HIGHLANDS – Combine fun and camaraderie with exercise and the opportunity to make women aware of the necessity of mammograms and what do you get? You get the big Zumba event that will mark the Highlands inaugural participation into the Paint the Town Pink campaign.
Two Zumba instructors, Margo McCray Gough and Jenny Correa Cervantes, will be leading a free class for those age 15 and older on Monday, May 6, at Henry Hudson Regional High School in Atlantic Highlands. Participants are being asked to arrive at 6:15 p.m. The class will begin at 6:30 p.m. “The first hour will be like a beginner’s class and anyone who wants to remain for the next hour can do so,” said Mary-Margaret Kurta, who is the Paint the Town Pink chairwoman for Highlands.
“So many people have been impacted by (Super Storm Sandy) that we thought it would be a nice way to have people do something for themselves, something enjoyable … It will be a good way to take their mind off of things,” said Kurta, who is already talking about what the town might do for next year’s commemoration.
Kurta thought that a Zumba class would be a good entry into Meridian Health System’s mammogram awareness campaign because of her own experience at a gym in Atlantic Highlands whose owner is a Highlands resident. She takes a Zumba class there along with many others. “I enjoy it and there are so many women from the area of all different ages that go to the class. So we thought, we enjoy, we like seeing each other and it gives you something to do for yourself,” she said. “That’s how the class came about.”
The borough’s participation came about because Kurta had watched during the last seven years how paint the Town Pink “had brought such joy and awareness to the area. I thought, how can we do something?”
After talking to a number of people about the idea, she attended a borough council meeting last spring to inquire why Highlands was not involved. Council members asked Kurta “if I’d like to volunteer and I said absolutely.
“I personally don’t have any family members who have been impacted by breast cancer but I have many co-workers who have been and whose families have been,” said Kurta, who works as a speech therapist for the Middletown school system. “That really increased my awareness.”
The events of the past six months also have acted as an impetus for Kurta to get involved in the campaign.
“There are so many people without insurance lately that I’ve talked to in the area, especially with the storm. I think people have let themselves take care of all the other issues and I wondered how many people are really taking care of themselves,” she said.
Making an appointment for an annual mammogram is one way for women to care for themselves, she noted.
In addition to the Zumba class, pupils and staff from Highlands Elementary School will be wearing pink to show their support for Paint the Town Pink.
Students from Henry Hudson Regional also will be helping the Highlands’ businesses participating in Paint the Town Pink by painting store windows with designs to increase awareness of the campaign and the need for mammograms.
“It’s great how Atlantic Highlands and Highlands have gotten the students involved,” Kurta said.
Though only a few businesses in town have opened since Super Storm Sandy ripped into Highlands, the owners of those that have, have contacted Kurta to see what they can do for Paint the Town Pink. This year “will be just a small stepping stone for something that will be great for this town,” she said.
Kurta has been letting people know about Highlands’ participation by talking at town meetings about the campaign. She also has “pinked her ride” – decorated her car with signs and stickers to attract attention for the event. The car was driven by her daughter and son in the Highlands St. Patrick’s Day parade last month.
The Zumba class is expected to be open to about 150 participants. Organizers are asking that those who expect to attend register by Wednesday, May 1, at 855-PINK411 (855-746-5411).