On paper, it was not a successful week for the Toll Gate and Rocky Hill School field hockey teams. The Titans dropped three games, while the Mariners lost a 4-0 game to La Salle before beating Toll Gate on Friday.
But in living color – especially in pink – it was a great week.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, both teams organized pink-out fundraising events. Between them, the programs will donate nearly $1,000 to cancer charities.
Toll Gate held a pink-out game on Wednesday and encouraged the entire community to wear pink during the school day. On Friday, the Titans hit the road for Rocky Hill and another pink-out, a fifth-annual event for the Mariners.
Both pink-outs were driven by the same desire to help.
“When you ask the team who’s been affected by breast cancer, more than half usually raise their hands,” said Rocky Hill head coach Traci Fairchild. “We’ve done this for five years now and it keeps growing each year.”
Pink-outs have become a common sight in the sports world over the last few years, from youth leagues to the professional ranks. Field hockey has been at the forefront since the beginning, thanks in part to the Play 4 the Cure effort, which offers resources and support to athletic teams that want to get into fundraising. Play 4 the Cure is affiliated with the National Foundation for Cancer Research, and all proceeds go to that organization.
Fairchild heard about Play 4 the Cure a few years ago, and with a personal connection to breast cancer, she signed her team up immediately.
“My grandmother passed away from breast cancer in 2001,” Fairchild said. “When I heard Play 4 the Cure, we decided to do it and blow it out big.”
The school community embraced the effort, and it’s been a fall tradition since. The team sold bracelets and ribbons all week at school and held a bake sale on Friday.
At the game, pink really took over. Balloons lined the edge of the field, a pink ribbon was painted in the center circle and the lines on the field were also painted pink. The team wore pink uniforms, too, and Play 4 the Cure supplied pink balls. Even the referees got in on the act with pink shirts.
Toll Gate, fresh off its own pink-out, made pink hair bows and gave them to their Rocky Hill counterparts.
“Toll Gate was very generous and made the ribbons,” Fairchild said. “It was super sweet and showed great sportsmanship. We appreciated that.”
Toll Gate is new to the pink-out scene but its debut went pretty well. At Wednesday’s game against Smithfield, the Titans were decked out in pink and they collected donations at the game. They also sold bracelets and collected donations at school during the week. They raised about $300, which will go to the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.
“The whole school really embraced it,” said head coach Leila Connolly. “The school was a sea of pink.”
Toll Gate took its cue from the Rhode Island field hockey coaches association, which encourages teams to organize fundraisers in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Like many teams around the state, the Titans ran with it.
“It’s a good cause,” said Toll Gate assistant coach Melissa Heywood. “We wanted to do more than just play a game in honor of that. That was the motivating factor of us pulling the school into it.”
And of course, for a team full of teenage girls, it wasn’t a hard sell.
“The girls love pink,” Connolly said.
Toll Gate took it a step further on Friday when it did its part in Rocky Hill’s event. Junior Breana Coleman led the charge to make the ribbons.
“It’s a good thing to do to help raise money,” she said. “It’s important people are aware of it and that they help out when they can.”
As for Friday’s game, the Mariners snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-0 victory over the winless Titans.
“Home field success and a win is great too,” Fairchild said.
It was a rare win on both sides.