According to organizers of Volley for a Cure 2013, it might have a little to do with the Lee Lady Flames volleyball squad, whose head coach and players are teaming with a community planning committee to ignite a new fire — one whose heat is radiating breast cancer awareness.
It’s arguably the second biggest bash in October, just a few volleys behind Halloween.
The monthlong quest to paint the town pink is marching rapidly to its Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 finales, but not before a group of local doctors seeks to douse some hard-hitting firefighters from the Cleveland Fire Department in a winner-take-all matchup on the softball diamond Thursday night.
The fact that it’s United Nations Day will do little to negotiate a peaceful settlement between the two unlikely rivals. The first pitch is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. at the Lee University field at the corner of 20th and Parker streets.
“We encourage everyone to come on out and show your support for your favorite physician or your favorite city firemen,” according to Zandra Welch, a long-time VFAC volunteer whose past work with the Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon and Flamingo Flock have left more than a few faces several shades of pink.
For those with good memories, this softball Field of Dreams wasn’t always a battle of stethoscopes and fire hoses. It used to be doctors versus lawyers, as recently as 2012. When the so-called “sawbones” pinked the “jawbones” into a merciless submission last year, the professional feud was ended in order to cool down the rivalry.
“In the past our local physicians (“Resuscitators”) played our attorneys (“Outlaws”) in the annual softball game to benefit Volley for a Cure,” Welch reflected. “We did this for many years, but discontinued it about eight or nine years ago. Last year, we decided to revive the game as a part of our Volley for a Cure festivities. Both teams were willing participants. There were a lot of familiar, more mature faces from years before on the field, but a lot of fresh, younger faces as well.”
The annual matchups were also co-ed with at least two females on the field at all times.
But last year, like a Timex, the lawyers took a licking. A year later, facing some difficulties fielding a team, the legal minds asked for a breather which sent VFAC organizers searching for a replacement. The physicians, reportedly overcome with confidence, still wanted to play.
“We had to go looking for another willing opponent,” Welch cited. “We turned to our Cleveland Fire Department. These guys have played a big part in our Pink Party at Volley for a Cure in the past several years and are big supporters of breast cancer awareness.”
The rest is history unfolding in hoses of pink.
“I spoke with Cleveland Fire Chief Steve Haun and he talked with the guys,” Welch explained. “The guys not only willingly agreed, they are excited about the opportunity.”
They’re excited for another reason. One feature of the annual softball game is the accompanying fundraising whose proceeds benefit VFAC which supports the MaryEllen Locher Scholarship Foundation.
“Last year, the physicians and attorneys raised almost $6,000,” Welch explained. “We hope to do the same this year. The firemen are getting a late start with their fundraising, but they worked hard last weekend at the Cleveland Apple Festival by passing around their ‘pink boot.’”
The firefighters also have another trick up their boots ... er, sleeves. On Wednesday (Oct. 23), the firemen are partnering with Firehouse Subs. At both of the Cleveland eatery’s locations (the Village Green and Paul Huff Parkway), some 10 percent of all of Wednesday’s sales will go into the pink boot whose next step will be into the VFAC coffers and on to the Locher Foundation.
“We are looking for an exciting game and a great turnout,” Welch said.
She offered a few tips for attendees: Dress warmly. Wear pink. Come prepared to cheer. Wear pink. Play nice, even if just a fan. Wear pink. Support breast cancer awareness in action and spirit. And wear pink.
As advertised, Volley for a Cure also has an array of additional activities, some of which are happening now and some of which will bring the month of October to a busy climax.
n The annual Flamingo Flock is again flying high as a fundraising component for Volley for a Cure. Little explanation for the phenomenon in pink is necessary, but in a nutshell it’s a chance for friends and loved ones to have other friends and loved ones flocked with pink flamingo figurines. The delicate statues are placed in lawns overnight and then retrieved the next day. It’s done for a donation — based on number of pink birds placed — which goes into the VFAC collection pot. Prices range from $25 to $75 for flocks ranging in size from “Small” to “Super-Size.” Anyone wishing to have a friend, loved one or associate lightheartedly flocked should call Flocking Headquarters at 423-595-4607 or Doctors Express at 458-1426.
n The annual Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon is set for Thursday, Oct. 31, at 11:30 a.m. Keynote speaker will be Vonda Skelton, a popular author and Christian speaker who will address what is expected to be a sold-out audience at the Lee University Rec Center at the corner of Parker Street and Billy Graham Avenue. Her visit is being sponsored by Cleveland businesswoman Brenda Lawson, founder of Brenda Lawson & Associates LLC. Ticket price for the luncheon is $20. Tickets may be reserved by calling 423-614-8600. With reservations, breast cancer survivors will be allowed to attend free of charge. Three parking lots have been reserved for this year’s luncheon at the Rec Center, the Tennis Center and at the corner of 15th and Magnolia streets.
“We are thrilled to have a speaker of Vonda Skelton’s caliber to keynote the Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon,” said Andrea Hudson, Lady Flames head volleyball coach who doubles as senior woman administrator and assistant athletic director at Lee University.
The VFAC founder added, “Vonda is a woman of many talents, and someone who knows how to reach out to audiences, especially those who share something in common like breast cancer.”
n On Friday, Nov. 1, the VFAC pink doins’ hit high gear in the Paul Dana Walker Arena. The evening signals its start at 5 with the inspiring Silent Auction; at 6 comes the traditional Pink Party highlighted by crazy hair, face painting, cotton candy, flamingoes and more; at 6:45 will come the “Pack the Stands” event, and at 7 the Lee Lady Flames will lend a direct touch to VFAC by taking on Gulf South Conference opponent Valdosta State University in a regular season matchup. No admission is being charged for the festive evening; however, bright pink “Keep Calm and Volley for a Cure” T-shirts will be sold for a $5 donation. All other donations will also be accepted.
Hudson, a Bradley County native, said last year VFAC raised $23,500 for the Locher Scholarship Foundation. A scholarship recipient will be named at the Friday night festivities at Walker Arena.
“When we first started Volley for a Cure, my dream was to make this a huge community event with full involvement,” Hudson said. “I have grown up in Cleveland and I love this town. We have such kindhearted and loving people here who truly care about each other, and they give over and over again.”
She added, “My hope is this will continue to stay on the hearts of our community as we honor these women who courageously battle breast cancer. Our dream is to relieve their financial burden by allowing their children to attend college. Our past scholarship recipients have all continued in school and are graduating every year.”
Hudson pointed out the emotional highlight to the entire month of VFAC activities for her is the awarding of the Locher scholarship at the Friday evening events.
“When we award a family with a scholarship from the money we have raised through Volley for a Cure ... that’s the most emotional time for me,” the Lee University administrator and civic advocate stressed. “So many families in our community have been affected by breast cancer. Volley for a Cure, made possible by so many hardworking volunteers year after year after year ... well, that’s our gift to them.”
This year’s Volley for a Cure sponsors and partners include Brenda Lawson & Associates, Pink Ribbon Bowl 2012, Countryside Restaurant, Outland Travel Inc., MaryEllen Locher Foundation, The Plastic Surgery Clinic of Cleveland, Doctors Express, Express Athletics, East-West Media, Dick’s Graphics & Printing, the Cleveland Daily Banner, Gobble’s Automotive, SouthEast Bank & Trust, Zeta Chi Lambda, Lee Volleyball and WCLE Mix 104.1.