CASSTOWN — With it being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, some sports teams will wear pink jerseys or bakeries will ice a pink cake. As for the Miami East High School Viking Pride Marching Band, they have been seen with pink plumes at football games.
And they are not wearing pink as a trend or solely to raise awareness; they are doing it as a way to actually help those affected by cancer.
Throughout October, band members wear pink plumes along with the color guard spinning pink flags for their “March Pink” campaign to encourage spectators at games to donate a dollar to the Stand Up to Cancer organization to help fund research for all cancers.
“We thought it was important to target an organization that includes all cancers,” Band Director Jeff Smith said. The organization uses 100 percent of profits to go toward collaborative research programs to find a cure.
The foundation provides two grants: Dream Team grants for multi-institutional groups of scientists that work collaboratively, not competitively, and the Innovative Research Grants support groundbreaking cancer research projects that are high-risk but could also be high-impact.
Smith said he wanted his students to learn that it’s more than just wearing pink.
“You need to put your money where your mouth is,” he said. “It’s good to raise awareness and that’s always a positive thing, but if we’re going to do something like that, we’re not only going to make it informative — we are going to make a positive, social change.”
“We don’t really understand the point of wearing pink if you’re not going to do anything about it,” said Cole Garrett, senior band member. “Just to wear it is like, ‘Oh look, we’re wearing pink just because we can wear pink.’ We decided to take initiative and say, ‘We’re gonna wear pink and do something about it.’”
Whether it’s a staff member at MEHS or a family member, most of the band members know someone who has cancer.
“We’ve had a decent amount of parents in the group that have been touched by other cancers and we wanted to support them for supporting us,” said Emily Randall, senior band member.
Randall found out two weeks ago of a family member who has breast cancer.
“Before this (finding out family member had cancer), I was like, ‘Just donate to a good cause,’ but it was until just recently that it hit closer to home,” she said.
“A lot of my close family members have died because of cancer and things like that,” Garrett said.
“You don’t expect those worlds to collide (knowing someone with cancer), and then something like that happens and it forces you to take inventory of the people you love and the people you know and how valuable time with them is,” Smith said.
After getting new uniforms, it was realized that the plumes were also worn and turning yellow and could not be worn with the uniforms anymore. That is when the idea to spray paint the old plumes pink came to fruition.
“We had all these old plumes that weren’t the quality that we would want to put with new uniforms and just decided, ‘Hey, why don’t we think about making these pink?’” Smith said. “After 20 years, they look much better pink.”
The band has been sporting their pink plumes every October for the past three years and Smith has noticed how his students have grown in the process.
“It’s nice to see them develop in that way, to develop empathy, which in some ways, our society is sort of lacking,” Smith said.
The members expressed their thoughts on this project.
“I always thought it was a good thing. It’s never a bad thing to donate to an organization like that,” Garrett said. “I feel like us as an organization putting in effort and money, just thinking about people diagnosed with these types of things, anything helps.”
“I like how even though we are raising awareness for breast cancer, the charity Mr. Smith chose was all of them (types of cancers),” said Lauren Koontz, senior band member.
There are two remaining football games where the band will be wearing their pink plumes and are encouraging those in attendance to give a dollar to help find a cure. The band will be at the Troy Christian football game this Friday and at the home game Friday, Oct. 30.
Smith wants his students to practice empathy and compassion beyond Oct. 31.
“When someone does something heroic, it’s this huge story and really, we should strive to be heroes every day,” he said.
Reach reporter Amy Barger at (937) 451-3340 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.