Oct. 30, 2012
Many will recognize October as breast cancer awareness month. Support is shown through pink on jerseys, wrist bands, cleats, helmets, socks, hats and other items you will find on the football field. The pink ribbon that takes center stage in the NFL and NCAA in October reminds us that sports has a platform for a cause that is even greater than the game.
At the University of Houston, breast cancer awareness is not limited to football. It’s not limited to the month of October either. In fact, come every April, the Cougars rally together and show some of the biggest support through the Striking Out Breast Cancer softball game.
This is a tradition that started around one player in what will be seven years ago this spring.
“When we recruited Elaina Nordstrom, a catcher from California, her mother Veronica was going through treatment,” head softball coach Kyla Holas said. “We really connected with the cause and thought it would be fun to wear pink and celebrate the women associated with it in our lives.”
The game has become more than something fun for the players to do. Last year, the softball team raised a record $11,448 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. The support extends beyond the softball team and their families; a record breaking number of fans attended the game.
Each year, the softball team wears pink jerseys and helmets which are auctioned off after the game. Additionally, there is a silent auction of items which bring in a tremendous amount of funds to be donated. Among the silent auction items from last year were signed memorabilia by professional athletes, tickets to Texans, Rockets, and Astros games, as well as a hand-made Houston Cougar softball cooler.
The entire athletic department has joined together to make this event a success every year. Without the marketing team, the athletics communications staff and the development office, just to name a few, the game wouldn’t have grown to what it is today.
For the softball program, it has been amazing to watch this game take on a life of it’s own.
“I believe it has grown to what it is now thanks to the vision and support of our parents and Chris Burkhalter at the beginning of it’s inception into one of the most special causes our athletic department hosts in addition to the largest amount of money donated toward a nonprofit organization like the Susan G Komen,” Holas said. “It gives me hope that as a community we can really make a difference and change the world one event at a time.”
Going back to where it all started, Elaina Nordstrom’s mother Veronica is a breast cancer survivor. At the third annual game in 2009, Veronica threw out the first pitch at the game along with then-assistant coach Kim Nesloney’s cousin, who is also a breast cancer survivor.
The softball team is just one group at this University that has had loved ones affected by breast cancer. It has been both humbling and eye opening to see all the work that can be done to support those who have been affected by the cancer, and those who search for a cure.
“Being in women’s collegiate athletics for the past 22 years, I have seen first hand what role models these athletes are and how breast cancer affects more women than we care to accept,” Holas said. “Supporting this gives our athletes a platform to support something so special and a way to show young female athletes of the future what getting involved and helping out can do.”