Dante Koplowitz-Fleming contributed to this story.
In a tent covered in pink decoration on the Section 109 concourse of FedExField, a group of women shared stories about their struggles and triumphs. Each was unique, but they all shared a common plot line: a battle with breast cancer.
This was just one part of Sunday’s Think Pink game, which celebrates a campaign started by Tanya Snyder to raise awareness for breast cancer research and to honor individuals who have battled the disease.
For many, including Cydnee Greathouse, who are either fighting breast cancer or have survived it, the event has become an important part in the recovery process.
“This experience when I was asked to come here last year, it was just, I mean the energy and the feeling of togetherness of women and the support and their stories, it really helped me,” Greathouse said. “And of course asking me back this second year, you know I’m now a year and a half cancer-free and I’m doing much better, but you know the emotional scars are still there and just having this get together for women that are survivors, and that are still going through treatments is more than I could ever ask for.”
Twenty years ago, Tanya Snyder started the event in conjunction with the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, handing out ribbons at Redskins home games in October to spread awareness of the disease. Since then, every NFL team has adopted the campaign.
When the NFL’s Crucial Catch campaign was initially started, most of its focus was put on breast cancer awareness. But, beginning in 2017 the campaign grew to include all types of cancers that have the option for an early detection screening, giving teams around the league the opportunity to support different types of cancer research.
Snyder began the day by passing out Think Pink ribbons with ZTA members. They took a group photo in front of a pink firetruck, an annual tradition. After that, the focus shifted toward celebrating survivors and fighters of breast cancer. There, in the tent, survivors and fighters were able to connect with each other, something those in attendance have grown to appreciate greatly.
“It’s good to be around other people who are also survivors, who are going through the process, and uplift each other and help each other to get through it,” Renee Marshall, who defeated cancer on September 5th and returned to work the very next day, said. “Because like I said, it is a struggle, it’s a journey.”
Besides connecting with one another, those at the events were also able to chat with Snyder and other members of both the Redskins and ZTA. To those who are fighting and love their Redskins, the opportunity to bond was viewed as something special.
“Just to have Tanya Snyder, just to come out and be a part of this with us is amazing and it’s awesome,” Elaine Robinson, a two-time survivor, said. “ We really appreciate it.”
Following that portion of the day, the women then got to experience some on the field festivities including an introduction prior to kickoff and a cheer routine at halftime. For Dawn O’Shea, who has seen her mother, grandmother and friend battle breast cancer, being on the field and hearing the crowd cheer was something she’ll never forget.
“I get to go on the field today, I’m excited about that, O’Shea said. “I’m just happy to be here, I love coming to football games.”
The Think Pink event culminated after the end of the third quarter when Carolyn Rodenburg, founder of the IIIBs Foundation and a survivor, was awarded two tickets to this year’s Super Bowl in honor of her work with women battling breast cancer.
A day filled with laughs, hugs, connections and Redskins football made for a special day for everyone in attendance.
“Just everything,” Robinson said about her favorite part. “Just the whole experience is just a great experience.”
In addition to celebrating the lives of those who are fighting or who have fought breast cancer, the women also hope that the event will continue to raise awareness and inspire those who are still battling.
“What I can say to those who are still fighting: Don’t give up, stay inspired, don’t let negative influences come into your life,” Marshall said. “Just stay positive and you will make it through, you will make it through.”