UNIVERSITY PARK — Miriam Powell is usually too busy setting up for the Lady Lions Pink Zone game to see the sight of the hundreds of survivors arriving on buses.
But this year, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Pink Zone set an alarm on her phone to make sure she could finally see them arrive.
“It was very emotional to know those buses were full of breast cancer survivors and their families,” she said.
And that wasn’t the only first Sunday.
This year’s event set new records for cancer survivors honored, marked the sixth largest crowd in Bryce Jordan Center history and allowed the eight-year effort to surpass $1 million in donations to the benefactor organizations. Nearly 700 women were honored during halftime of the 78-68 win over Wisconsin, totaling almost 3,500 years of survivorship.
Powell said a goal of this year’s event was to raise $300,000 to donate to the benefactor organizations, which would also be a yearly fundraising record. The six benefactors are Mount Nittany Health, Penn State Hershey, the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Location, J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, Geisinger-Lewistown and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
Fundraising initiatives include silent and live auctions, a portion of ticket sales, and pink T-shirt sales.
When the women took the court at halftime, each held up a sign to celebrate her years of survivorship.
For Norma Bishop, that number is 18.
She has been attending and participating in the Pink Zone experience for about five years, and each time more family members attend. This year, she had 36 family members at the game, some driving more than three hours to attend.
That support system has been key for Bishop in her fight with cancer.
“It’s just a dream come true to have most of them here,” she said.
Eleven-year survivor Kim Stewart also had a contingent of friends and family in attendance. She said the annual game is a source of hope for other survivors and a positive example for everyone.
She will keep coming back every year, saying she wouldn’t want to miss one.
“I think it’s a privilege and an honor, and I think it gives encouragement to other survivors that there is hope,” she said.
The Pink Zone organizers also presented its Champions Award to the Centre Daily Times for generosity in supporting the event.
The game is also special for the Lady Lions players and coaches each year.
Senior Talia East said coach Coquese Washington talks to the team about playing the game in support of the survivors.
Washington said the annual event is always special because they are able to celebrate with the people battling cancer and witness their courage.
“It’s just our way of honoring them and giving back to them, and it means a lot to me,” she said.
Final fundraising totals for this year’s event were not available Sunday, but Powell is hopeful they will reach their goal again.
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.