Prep football going pink

WHEELING – Unfortunately, there aren’t many families who haven’t been affected by one form of cancer or another.

The most prevalent types of cancer in women is breast cancer, which has infected more than a quarter of million women around the world.

In less than two weeks, the calendar flips to October, which is national Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means pink will become commonplace as people demonstrate their support for those battling the disease.

Area football players will once again be showing their support as Wheeling Hospital and the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference announced their annual initiative for prep gridders to wear a pink ribbon decal on the backs of their helmets.

“Athletes displaying the decal are reminding their moms and other loved ones of the importance of receiving an annual mammogram,” Wheeling Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer Ron Violi said in a prepared release.

This marks the third year of the OVAC and Wheeling Hospital teaming for the pink ribbons. Ribbons were presented to John Marshall, Buckeye Local and Wheeling Central during a small press conference Thursday afternoon. The other 45 football-playing schools in the OVAC will be mailed their decals.

“We are proud of all the schools who have volunteered to place the decals on their helmets,” OVAC Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak said. “The OVAC is more than just sports and we recognize our role in contributing to the community whenever we can, and the pink ribbon decal project certainly is an important way to do so.”

Wheeling Central head coach Mike Young was on hand at the press conference and spoke about how cancer is actually affecting his family currently.

“My beautiful mother actually has some breast cancer issues going on right now, so any chance we have to give back and bring awareness we’re honored to do it,” Young said. “You try to teach kids, even though coaching football, that learning is a life-long experience and if we can help teach them to show support for areas that need help then we can show as a unit they can step up.”

Buckeye Local head coach Phil Pest has been actively involved in Relay for Life for cancer awareness and the disease has also affected members of his family.

“We support all of these efforts,” Pest said. “It’s good to have the kids aware of this because (cancer) has probably touched their family or a friend’s family in some way. It’s important to know that Wheeling Hospital is a great place for treatment here locally, too.”

According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, and nearly 40,000 people died from the disease.

“A simple digital mammogram is sometimes all it takes to detect this,” said Wheeling Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Angelo Georges. “Today’s digital mammography equipment provides us with instant and extremely clear images. I can’t encourage women enough to please have an annual mammogram.”