Survivors team up to paint park pink

Maria M. Cornelius2MCsports

“Paint the Park Pink” will return to Smokies Stadium this summer for a breast cancer awareness baseball game with a jersey auction, prizes and raffles all to raise money for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

The date is Saturday, Aug. 5, with first pitch at 7 p.m. – gates open at 5:30 p.m. – and a post-game fireworks show. Tickets are available HERE.

On a personal note, this game is significant. I reached the 10-year survivor mark in 2023 and was released from the care of my oncologist after a decade of preventive treatment and tests. It’s a milestone that more breast cancer patients need to make.

“The American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is a celebration of courage and hope, a movement uniting communities to end breast cancer as we know it, for everyone,” said Janelle Carda, associate director of development for the American Cancer Society. “The American Cancer Society cannot do the work we do without amazing partners like Smokies Baseball, Erie Insurance and the local community that supports our mission.”

Erie Insurance stepped up for the second year in a row to sponsor the pink jerseys that the players will wear on the field. The jerseys will be auctioned online here – the listing will appear the Thursday before the game and run for three days – and winners can take the jersey home that night or have it shipped if not present. All of the proceeds benefit Making Strides. In addition, there will be raffle tickets for a team-signed pink jersey, silent auction items and a post-game tennis ball toss with prizes.

Survivors will be recognized on the field during the game and should gather at fan assistance on the concourse in the first inning. It’s a poignant moment for the survivors, their caregivers and those who love them. Stand Up To Cancer signs also will be handed out to fans to honor loved ones who have dealt with or are dealing with any type of cancer for a moment of silence during the game.

The players participate by stepping out of the dugout with their I STAND FOR signs and one player in 2022 held one that said: MOM. A video of the 2022 event can be watched here.

In additional author disclosure, I am a Smokies season ticket holder, an Erie policyholder for home and auto and an eight-year member of the Making Strides volunteer committee. My friend, Jeannine Henney, also is a breast cancer survivor and has worked for Erie for more than three decades. She played an instrumental role in securing sponsorship. We tagged team to make sure there would be a pink game in 2023.

Maria Cornelius and Jeannine Henney at fan day in April 2023 when they coordinated pink game with Smokies Baseball.

I was quoted in the Smokies news release and will add it here: “When Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and ‘Paint the Park Pink’ sponsor Erie Insurance approached Smokies Baseball about holding a pink game, they immediately wanted to work with us to make it happen. This game means so much to everyone whose life has been affected by breast cancer. It is a chance to recognize survivors, remind those fighting now that they are not alone and to remember those we have lost.”

I am one of the fortunate ones. I know that. Like everyone else, I have lost loved ones to cancer. Last year, nearly 7,000 people, many of them wearing pink, came out in support. Please help us paint the park pink again on Aug. 5.

Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at Moxley Carmichael since 2013, started her journalism career at the Knoxville News Sentinel and began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press.


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