The Collinsville High School football team went all in at school and practice Thursday when every member of the team wore a specially made pink t-shirt to bring awareness to breast cancer.
For a team directly touched by the illness, the shirts were not just an October fashion statement. Head Coach John Blaylock’s mother battled breast cancer last year and freshmen team members Braden and Chance White supported their mother, Renee, as she battled the disease while her son’s tried to also concentrate on football and school this fall.
Already wearing, 200 pink ribbons, one on the back of every helmet from the varsity team throughout the entire Jr. Kahok football program, the team decided to make a bigger splash this week. Jr. Kahok coach Wayne White, father of Braden and Chance, organized the distribution of the shirts to bring more awareness to a cause that he said he now understands better than he ever wanted.
“I’ll never look at a pink ribbon, or anything pink for that matter, for the rest of my life without thinking about my wife and what she has gone through,” White said.
An anonymous donor teamed with All-Pro Tees to provide the shirts, which Blaylock was happy to have the team wear to school in support of the effort. The shirts, which read “Be strong and tackle breast cancer head on,” were intentionally loud, to catch people’s attention, to make people stop and think.
“The message is getting lost,” White said. “(Many people) see the pink, but they don’t understand how traumatic it is for a family to go through breast cancer and breast cancer treatment.”
Months of sitting in waiting rooms, listening to families discuss when they could have treatments based on when insurance would approve a procedure, and the staggering cost of fighting the disease, made White realize how lucky his family was to have great insurance, and gave him the desire to help others. With the assistance of the Kahok football team, he and the anonymous donor hope people will really consider the families when they see the pink shirts in the future.
“When they have an opportunity to be in a walk or donate to a benefit, they should do it, because it’s helping the families that need it the most,” White said. “A lot of the money goes to early detection, which is what is saving women’s lives.”
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.