On Wednesday, they wore pink.
Tony Hillerman Middle School’s volleyball team hosted its “Go Pink or Go Home” game to raise money for the American Cancer Society Wednesday. The team has been holding fundraisers to fight cancer every year since 2015.
Players, coaches, faculty, fans and parents were all decked out in pink to support the fundraiser, which helps to save lives and fund the future of cancer research, patient support and advocacy.
Cris Mancuso, an eighth-grade teacher at Tony Hillerman, organized the event and said the fundraisers have been a big success.
The school held a silent auction of themed gift baskets during the match and raised money on campus throughout the week. Mancuso said the school would know how much was raised Wednesday by next week. THMS raised more than $3,000 in both 2018 and 2019. The 2020 fundraiser was online only because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the school still raised over $1,000. In seven years, THMS has raised well over $10,000, according to Mancuso.
“We chose play in October and for volleyball because we know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” Mancuso said. “But it doesn’t necessarily just go to the breast cancer research. It goes to the travel fees for getting patients to their appointments. It goes for hotels; it’s like housing expenses for patients who have to travel, and to research. It goes to the American Cancer Society for them to use what they need it for.”
The Go Pink game is always a spirited event with a raucous crowd and nearly everyone in attendance donning pink. This year, teachers Aaron Bill and Gregory Vehar got into the action by wearing pink wigs and tutus. Vehar stylishly wore a pair of pink heels.
While the crowd was as loud and energetic as usual, the night got off to a somber start.
Before the game, a cancer survivor and mother of a THMS volleyball player was honored in an emotional ceremony that had the large crowd in the gym tearing up.
“Their oldest son started here in 2013. So they’ve been part of our community since then,” Mancuso said. “And during student-led conferences in 2019, we met each other in the hallway and we just said, you know, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ And I just saw that look in her face and I grabbed her arm and I said, ‘What?’ she looked at me in the eyes, and she said, ‘I have cancer.’ And the three of us just embraced each other, her daughter. The three of us we just embraced each other. Cried it out, and said, ‘It’s gonna be OK.’ That’s when her journey started. I’m happy to say that though she’s had over 100 hours of surgery, it was neck and head cancer, and though she was told to say her goodbyes and put her assets in order and say goodbye to her family, her kids, I’m happy to say now, in October of 2022, she is cancer free, but her journey is not over. There’s many more things that have to happen to help her live the fullest life possible.”
Mancuso has also organized a Thunder Walk team for the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at Balloon Fiesta Park on Oct. 28. Donations can be made here.