These are challenging times for all nonprofits, with a national focus on the pandemic and so many people struggling financially. The search for a new executive director added even more to the mix at Pink Zone, which helps lead the fight against breast cancer by raising funds and mobilizing resources in central Pennsylvania.
But overcoming obstacles is nothing new for folks at Pink Zone, including board President Mitch Kirsch, a breast cancer survivor.
Kirsch spoke with Town&Gown about the director search, the ongoing mission of Pink Zone, and its plans for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
T&G: Obviously, every organization has been impacted by COVID-19 in significant ways. How has the pandemic affected your fundraising and activities – particularly as you were searching for a new executive director at the same time – and how are you responding?
Kirsch: This pandemic has affected every part of our lives and Pink Zone is no exception. We have had to cancel major fundraisers planned for the fall and realize that many businesses who have been loyal partners are also struggling. Losing our executive director this summer was also a significant loss. Our assistant director, Emma Maniez, has been busy creating virtual fundraising events and working with community partners to continue Pink Zone’s mission, especially during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
T&G: What are your goals for the new executive director?
Kirsch: The executive director for Pink Zone is our leader and community spokesperson. Their goals are pretty clear: to create a passion for Pink Zone that supports our mission of mobilizing resources and empowering survivors. We support six beneficiaries throughout the region who care for breast cancer patients, and the executive director garners the resources necessary to advance this cause
T&G: Please tell us about some of the key initiatives and events you have planned for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Kirsch: Since we had to cancel our inaugural golf tournament, we will be hosting a virtual tournament during the month of October. Golfers can register online (papinkzone.org/golf) and support Pink Zone as they compete on the local links during October.
Kelly’s Steakhouse in Boalsburg will be dressing their bull in pink in support of Pink Zone! They will be offering food and drink specials during October that will benefit Pink Zone.
You will see our Pink Zone banners throughout downtown to remind everyone that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We are partnering with numerous businesses throughout the month to raise awareness and financial support for Pink Zone.
We are selling masks, especially made by Collegiate Pride for Pink Zone, available on our website, papinkzone.org.
T&G: The Pink Zone game has become a major event each February. How has your partnership with the Lady Lions basketball team evolved, and what are the plans for the 2021 event?
Kirsch: Our relationship with coach (Carolyn) Kieger and her staff is extremely strong. They are fully behind the mission of Pink Zone and stand ready to support our cause 100 percent. As you know, all of Penn State athletics is in a state of flux right now. Planning for winter sports is underway, but there is still so much uncertainty about what the season will look like. I am confident, however, that whatever it looks like, there will be a place for Pink Zone.
T&G: I know your father passed away from breast cancer, and you’re a breast cancer survivor. How do these personal experiences inform your role as president of the Pink Zone board?
Kirsch: Yes, breast cancer is very personal to me, and although it does not define who I am, it plays a major role in my involvement with Pink Zone. I received so much support during my struggles with the disease and Pink Zone is my way of giving back to the community, especially to those who do not have a support system like mine. One in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and those are real people, with families and dreams. My goal is to keep our focus on the people behind those numbers.
T&G: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the work of Pink Zone?
Kirsch: We have a rich history in this community and all of our fundraising dollars remain local. Our world is focused right now on this pandemic, and appropriately so. However, breast cancer does not care about the coronavirus – women and men in our community continue to be diagnosed with breast cancer every day. We cannot forget about this very vulnerable population during these challenging times. Our mission remains critical, perhaps now more than ever.
Mark Brackenbury is editorial director of Town&Gown.