Painting Austin pink

Published 4:18am Sunday, March 3, 2013

Locals went all out in effort to fund local cancer research

Austin turned pink in February, and it wasn’t for Valentine’s Day.

The 10-day sophomore run of Paint the Town Pink, which raises funds for The Hormel Institute to fight breast cancer, built off the well received 2012 debut with a number of new events and still more community support.

It began with a kickoff in mid January at The Hormel Institute, where Austin Bruins Forward Chris Fischer and his father, Joe, honored Chris’ mother, Debra, who died in May 2012 after a six-month battle with breast cancer. The Fischers placed a memorial panel in The Institute’s Donor Recognition Wall.

“There was not one dry eye in the place,” said Cheryl Corey, executive director of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Hearing their story just made you want to say, ‘I’m on board, what way can I help?’”

And the response was enthusiastic. Churches, nonprofits and businesses all got on board to set up events and fundraisers under the pink theme. Corey said it helped that the event’s debut in 2012 was such a success.

“Now that we’re a viable event and have success behind us and visibility, it’s easier to ask for things,” she said. “People are really being creative on how they can raise money.”

Last year, a number of businesses got on board with activities, but this year, many more individuals stepped up.

“Every day our phone was ringing off the wall,” Corey said during the weeks of planning leading up to the events.

Corey was one of a dozen people on the Paint the Town Pink planning committee who whittled away at the event’s second go. Representatives from the Bruins, the city of Austin, the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce and other groups were also involved.

“We have a really nice, well-rounded mix of community partners that want to help,” she said.

The event may only be in its second year, but the roots of the idea go further back. A number of years ago, the CVB board had been talking for a while about how to put together a winter festival that would get people to spend the night in Austin. The CVB is funded by lodging tax, and relies on guests booking stays at local hotels.

Then, three years ago, the Austin Bruins put together the Paint the Rink Pink event. Mike Delhanty, director of community relations with the Austin Bruins, said it was an idea players and staff were eager to try.

“A lot of teams around the league had done different benefits for cancer,” he said. “We didn’t know what to expect.”

The turnout was a resounding success.

“The first season, it sold out the night of,” Delhanty said. “We had to turn people away at the door.”

The CVB board soon got the idea to build off it, and approached Bruins owner Craig Patrick for permission.

“He and the Bruins were very receptive to that,” Corey said.

The event took off in 2012, and the community pulled in more than $62,000 from the Bruins game and the other events around town.

During Paint the Rink Pink, 100 percent of sales from the jersey auction benefited The Hormel Institute’s cancer research. This year, jerseys fetched anywhere from $500 to $3,500. Paint the Rink Pink T-shirts also support the cause. Those looking to donate smaller amounts purchased raffle tickets, which put them in the running for local prizes like Holiday Inn stays, Torge’s Bar and Grille gift cards, golf gift certificates and more.

“A lot of the businesses do love to help out,” Delhanty said.

Players also got involved at the pink pancake breakfast, where they help serve, bus dishes and mingle with locals.

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