By Caitlin Coyle, Tria Deibert and Randi Russell
It began with a simple idea: Turn Red Bank into Pink Bank to increase mammography rates in our community. Today, the Pink hue extends to 34 towns.
In what could be considered the first “Pink it Forward” moment in Monmouth County, Meridian Health developed an idea to encourage women to stay well and put themselves on their own to-do list.
Women are often the health care warriors of their family, coordinating appointments for their parents, partners, children and friends. But too often, women put their own needs last. Scheduling their annual mammogram is no exception.
According to an American Cancer Society study from 2007, only 60.2 percent of women in New Jersey, age 40 and older, were getting their annual mammogram. And, even more alarming, the statistic dropped to only 35.7 percent among the uninsured population. Enter Tria Deibert.
Totally new to health care, she was amazed that, even though a mammogram is a woman’s best chance at finding breast cancer at an early and more treatable stage, thousands of women were skipping this potentially lifesaving test. Even with all the attention October brings to breast cancer awareness, women were still not heeding the message to get their annual mammogram.
Tria knew something needed to be done. She worked with a team at Riverview Medical Center to create Paint the Town Pink’s mission: To encourage women, age 40 and older, to get their annual mammogram and to raise funds to provide mammograms for uninsured or under-insured women in our community. Add energy, passion, community involvement and human kindness, and Paint the Town Pink was born in 2007.
But to “pink it forward” the team had to bring the campaign to life through incredible visuals. Tria knew just the person. Enter, Liz McKay.
For personal reasons Liz McKay has always had a deep connection to prevention and wellness. So as an advocate for good health, as well as a local – and talented – photographer in Red Bank, it was no surprise that when Tria asked Liz to get involved with Paint the Town Pink, she said yes. Every year since 2007 Liz, along with her husband Bob, have helped to tell the stories of the men and women in our community who also support Paint the Town Pink.
The campaign has been brought to life from a number of different perspectives, including women, men, daughters, and sons. Each photo may feature a different face and story, but they all support the same mission – to encourage other community members like themselves to get involved with Paint the Town Pink to spread awareness of early detection. And so, through heartwarming and powerful photographs Liz has reached volunteers in our community, like Lori Schaffer, and helped encourage them to also Pink it Forward…
Lori Schaeffer was inspired to paint an entire town pink to honor the memory of her neighbor and friend, Carla, who passed away from breast cancer in 2013. Only a few weeks after losing her best friend, Lori came across an article about Paint the Town Pink, and felt inspired to act. She, along with a group of Neptune City neighbors, created a committee for Pinktune City and started on their mission to influence women, age 40 and older, to get their mammogram.
As the chairwoman of Pinktune City, Lori has Pinked It Forward for the past two years by recruiting local businesses and community groups to spread awareness of the importance of annual mammography. As she plans events, fundraises and rallies the community, Lori sports a starfish pin, a beloved gift from Carla. This way, Carla is always with Lori on her mission to remind women that early detection is the best defense against breast cancer. Carla’s pin reminds Lori that making a difference in even just one person’s life makes all of her efforts worth the while. Just as Carla influenced Lori to join Paint the Town Pink, Lori has made a huge impact on the women in Monmouth and Ocean counties.
When Premier Electric, an electric company in Manasquan, was approached by the Pink committee in its town, the company was happy to Pink it Forward and register as a Pink Partner. As a local business in town, Pink Partners have a unique opportunity to help spread the mission of Paint the Town Pink by integrating it into a woman’s daily routine as she shops and dines around town. Not only are Pink Partners able to help educate women, but they also have the ability to make it fun and unique.
In 2013 Joe Pollio and the rest of the staff at Premier Electric decided they were going to Pink it Forward by wearing pink every Friday during the month of May. So every Friday as Joe and his colleagues went into people’s homes, they were able to help shed a little extra light on the importance of annual mammography in hopes that women, like Cherie, would be encouraged to schedule hers.
A mammogram saved Cherie Wilson’s life. In 2012, Cherie would have never guessed that one lump, one appointment, one test, would change her life forever.
Cherie’s world was turned upside down by a diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer, found by a mammogram. Since then, she’s gone through weeks of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation treatment.
After enduring the fight of her life, she is stronger and more resilient than ever before. Cherie wanted to use this life-changing experience to help other people, so she decided to Pink it Forward. Every day, Cherie promises to encourage every woman, age 40 and older, to get a mammogram. For friends, it is a daily reminder on Cherie’s Facebook page about the importance of mammography. After all, just one appointment saved her life, and could potentially save many others.
For Cherie’s mom, Christine Boylan-Scully, the reminder is an extra push to get her mammogram, and of course, a buddy to go with her to the appointment.
Cherie received bountiful support during her fight with breast cancer. Now it is her turn to support the mission of Paint the Town Pink by Pinking it Forward and, one step at a time, encouraging all women to get their annual mammogram.
Caitlin Coyle, Tria Deibert and Randi Russell are employees of Meridian Health, the sponsor of Paint the Town Pink.