UNIVERSITY PARK — Pink grocery tote bags emblazoned with the word “Hope” that were donated by 30 area Giant Food Stores piled up in the concourse of the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday morning.
About 15 volunteers worked their fingers to the bone stuffing the “swag bags” with goods.
Those bags will be given to more than 700 breast cancer survivors from across the state during halftime of the eighth annual Pink Zone basketball game Sunday.
The Penn State Lady Lions take on Wisconsin at 1 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center.
“Other than myself and another newly created position, it’s a volunteer-driven organization that makes miracles happen,” said Miriam Powell, Pennsylvania Pink Zone executive director.
Marti Duffy is a member of the Lady Lion Cager Club and has been a Pink Zone volunteer for two years.
Wearing a pink watch and pink fingernails to support the cause, Duffy said there is nothing more rewarding than having the chance to give back.
“I never had breast cancer, but it’s still something that affects us all,” she said. “When you have the chance to help, you know you’re doing a nice thing that makes a difference in people’’ lives.”
Pennsylvania Pink Zone was established in 2006 to promote breast cancer awareness and empower survivors though yearlong fundraising initiatives. The organization is partnered with the Penn State Lady Lions in the fight against breast cancer.
For each ticket sold at the annual Pink Zone game, $4 will be donated to the organization. So far, more than 10,000 tickets have been sold, said Kristina Petersen, associate director of athletic communications at Penn State.
Powell said the fundraising goal is to reach $300,000 by Sunday. With donations expected to roll in through the end of the month, Powell added that Pennsylvania Pink Zone won’t have a total amount raised until early spring.
Last year, the organization raised about $260,000, Powell said. And coupled with this year’s fundraising campaigns, Powell added that Pennsylvania Pink Zone will exceed $1 million since its inception.
An assembly line of volunteers passed along each bag and placed in each an item donated by sponsors.
Along with a towel, hat, and other knickknacks, one of those items included homemade bracelets by Kristine Miller, 32.
Miller was born nearly blind and with a mild mental impairment, and was told she wouldn’t make it past her first birthday.
She defeated the odds.
Then in 2005, her life changed again after a serious car accident resulted in brain damage that forced her to learn the basics of life all over again.
Miller said that as part of her hand therapy, she began to make beaded bracelets that are now donated to several local charities.
“These are the kinds of gifts that show survivors aren’t alone in their fight,” said “swag bag” coordinator Diane Crebs, of State College, who is also an 11-year survivor of breast cancer.
She added that Fullington donated 15 buses to bring survivors from central and eastern Pennsylvania to the game.
Pink Zone’s main beneficiaries are Mount Nittany Medical Center, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, Kay Yow Cancer Fund, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital.
Powell said when Pennsylvania Pink Zone started, money was originally donated to the American Cancer Society and other national organizations. When the organization’s growth hit a plateau, Powell said, its focus shifted about five years ago to help raise money for local organizations instead.
“I think now that people know their donations are going back into the community, we’re back on the upswing of growth again,” Powell said. “We’re actually growing so exponentially that we need to find a plan to meet that growth. We’re busting at the seams, but I think it’s a good kind of problem to have.”
About 30 State College-area businesses have signed up to help the cause, Powell said.
Balfurd Cleaners will donate money from any pink clothing item taken in to get dry cleaned.
Baby’s Burgers and Shakes will give proceeds from a pink milkshake to Pennsylvania Pink Zone.
“It’s the epitome of what community effort is all about,” Powell said.
For more information, visit www.pennsylvania pinkzone.org.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @M11azzo.