Eagle River High School’s (ERHS) volleyball teams donned pink like many teams on October 10th to raise awareness for breast cancer.
However, the Lady Wolves decided to do something unique; they raised money from bake sales and at home games throughout October to give directly to someone in Eagle River fighting breast cancer.
Since its inception in 2005, this program has raised money for members of Eagle River who are battling breast cancer. Recipients can use the money for any need they have, whether that be for offsetting medical costs, paying regular bills, or buying groceries.
“We take a lot of pride in it [the donation],” says Geena Graf, team captain of the girls’ volleyball. “It’s something that really forms a sense of unity among the girls. I know this is something that they really look forward to.”
Margaret Cichoracki received the fund this year after the JV game. She and her family recently moved to Eagle River from California after her husband retired from the Coast Guard. She discovered she had breast cancer in February during a regular checkup. A quick surgery and subsequent treatment put the cancer in remission, but she continues to struggle with the aftereffects of the treatment.
She says that her experience has been an emotional rollercoaster. “One day you’re happy, one day you’re sad, one day you want to give up, one day you just don’t want to be around anyone,” she says. “I’ve never been the one to say ‘Why me?’ or ‘I’m a victim of cancer,’” choosing instead to use this experience to raise awareness about breast cancer.
She is grateful to ERHS not just because of the financial gift but also because it gives her an opportunity to talk to athletes about awareness. She is thankful to the Lady Wolves and ERHS for their support. “The girls have been great,” she says. “I am so thankful to the girls and everything they’ve done for this program. And for them to have Pink Night is an awesome thing. How many high schools actually plan a breast cancer night?”
The recipients of the fund are not the only ones benefiting from the initiative. Coach Dibiasio, head volleyball coach at ERHS, loves this program because it gives his athletes an opportunity to be involved in something bigger than them and to make them see the world outside of their normal lives. Coach Dibiasio has a special motivation for wanting his athletes involved with this fund; he is a cancer survivor.
“I understand the financial and physical toll that it [cancer] takes on someone,” Dibiasio says. “More than just raising the money, it’s a huge emotional boost to have people go out of their way to highlight the fight you are going through and to say that they are standing next to you.”
Coach Dibiasio continued by saying that he was the recipient of programs like this while he fought cancer and that the emotional boost was worth far more than the dollar amount he received. To improve the program from previous years, members of Taylor’s team will follow up with Cichoracki and will look for ways to assist her as she continues struggling with the aftermath of breast cancer.
The athletes of Eagle River High School are excited about the opportunity to help someone in their community. Graf is excited to raise money for this program because it gives her team extra motivation to play.
Graf says, “When we have Pink Night, we have a new purpose to play. It’s not just for ourselves, but it’s for the person we’re donating our money and hard work to.”
Graf says she wants to make sure that the girls on the team follow up with Cichoracki and form a connection with her.
Though Pink Night ended on October 10, the battle continues for many across the country who are fighting breast cancer or are in remission. Hopefully, they will have Cichoracki’s attitude, who says that she wants to be the person who is, “in the community and can say, ‘I had breast cancer and survived.’”
Jamin Goecker is visiting family and making friends in Alaska before commissioning with the military. He holds a graduate degree in International Affairs from Texas A&M University. When not hiking, fishing or working out, he is editing his manuscript for a novel. To reach Jamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org.