Penn volleyball is playing for more than just wins this weekend as the Quakers are involved with the Side-Out Foundation’s Dig Pink! rally. The Red and Blue will be playing in pink jerseys in their matchups with Yale and Brown on Friday and Saturday, respectively, to raise awareness. We spoke with coach Kerry Carr about the event and her own experience with cancer.
Daily Pennsylvanian: How did the team first get involved with Dig Pink!?
Kerry Carr: It actually happened in 2008. We hadn’t really done a charity event before because Penn had their own donation system and we weren’t really allowed to highlight other charities to be donated to. I just convinced the athletic director at the time, Steve Bilsky, that this was a worthwhile cause and unbeknownst to me, a month later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer before we were even able to put on the event.
It was kind of ironic but at the same time, I was diagnosed because when you put on the event, one of the Breast Cancer awareness things was to get regular mammograms and I decided to get a mammogram and I found out I had breast cancer.
DP: What does the event mean to you as a cancer survivor?
KC: Personally, it means everything.It is a unique foundation and it isn’t like … a huge conglomeration. It is really small charity that is based on doing research for curing breast cancer at the late stages, stage IV, and giving help to those ladies who are diagnosed late. It obviously very much ties in with the volleyball world with all the volleyball teams and the charities that they give to. We also have a lot of games in October so it makes sense [to have a breast cancer-related charity] but also because so many of our lives are touched by it.
To actually have an event that I personally think saved my life because it gave me awareness that it was time for me to get checked and I was caught at Stage zero, I was one of the lucky ones, and after surgery I was cured, that is such a huge thing. I think the event, to me, is a symbol, six years out and cancer-free, that we can save lives just bringing awareness. Not only are the donations and money going to research but maybe it will bring awareness to one more woman that thought, ‘Oh, I put off that mammogram one more year, maybe it’s time to do it.’
DP: What have you told the team about the event and how are your athletes getting involved?
KC: Personally, it means a lot to me so I don’t put a lot on them. I ask them what they want to do with it and how they want to spread the word. Sometimes it’s within the Penn community and students and with it being fall break, they decided to make it a virtual event more than being on the Walk and being visible with their pink volleyball shirts and selling raffle tickets.
[With students not going to be here], they decided to actually go virtual and do a social media slam and do a Facebook event and reach to Penn people to spread the word through Facebook or Twitter or Instragram or donating directly online through the website. And I thought that was a neat way to approach it, the way they deal with their world, in the virtual world first. With our visiting teams, they also make ribbons and have the washable tattoos to give to them and the referees during the event.
DP: What would you say to people in the Penn community who are considering whether to come out for the event?
KC: To me, just being in the stands and wearing pink is helping people know that you are aware that of this and you’re doing something. It’s not even about the money and about the donations, those are both great. Everyone knows someone, sadly enough since it is so wide-spread, that has been diagnosed with cancer so I think it is personal to everyone.
Just showing up is showing support for those people in your life that have battled and survived. It is also about celebrating surviving this disease. For me, it’s not a sad occasion; I do get emotional about it. But I think it’s because I feel extremely lucky so I think it is not only about talking about cancer and dying; it is about people surviving because of research that has been done. More and more are surviving this wide-spread disease and I think that just showing up is saying, ‘I support this.’
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