Painting the town pink

Published 1:14 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Illustration by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Breast cancer fundraiser spreading across town

It’s hard for Cheryl Corey to contain her excitement when talking about Austin’s first annual Paint the Town Pink breast cancer awareness event.

Corey, as executive director of the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, helped spearhead the community-wide fundraiser — which takes place Jan. 30 – Feb. 5 — in coordination with the Austin Bruins’ annual Paint the Rink Pink celebration.

Together, the two organizations hope to raise money for The Hormel Institute, and in roughly two weeks, Corey said, it will be difficult to find a business in Austin that isn’t painted pink.

During the Austin Bruins’ inaugural season last year, the junior hockey team shattered expectations by raising more than $22,000 in one night during Paint the Rink Pink, with proceeds going directly to The Institute for cancer research. But with countless local businesses on board for the second, week-long go-round, Corey hopes to clear that benchmark.

Charlie Adams tries to skate the puck through Coulee Region's Lucas Dillon, left, and David Mylrea during the third period of the Bruins' 2011 Paint the Rink Pink game. - Herald file photo

“We’re just covering the town pink,” Corey said. “(Participating businesses) are all coming in so fast, and the list will grow. We really want to get as many people and organizations involved as we can.”

Corey said while many businesses will display pink ribbons, banners and signs that week — and some have already started — other businesses are finding creative ways to show support. Many businesses are encouraging employees to wear pink that week, Corey said. St. Olaf Lutheran Church will offer pink pancakes and Spam from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5, Belles & Beaus Bridal will have pink dresses in its window, and one of KAUS radio’s online video steams at www.myaustinminnesota. com will be tinted pink that week. Even Austin’s iconic “Buffy the Cow,” a 14-foot-tall fiberglass cow, is getting in the spirit, as it will be wearing a pink scarf.

Corey said businesses don’t even have to offer a discount to get involved, as they can still participate by hanging pink ribbons or signs.

“It’s about awareness as much as it’s about raising funds,” Corey said.

Events will take place all week, starting with the Austin High School girls basketball team’s “Paint the Gym Pink” 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 2. Other events include a happy hour at Torge’s Live 5-7 p.m. on Feb. 3, AHS dance team’s annual show at Austin High School at 11 a.m. Feb. 4, Fishing for a Cure at Eastside Lake from noon to 2 p.m. on Feb. 4, and of course, the Bruins’ Paint the Rink Pink at Riverside Arena at 7 p.m. on Feb. 4.

While the success of the first Paint the Rink Pink event was a pleasant surprise — they had to turn away more than 500 people after it sold out — tickets are almost gone for this year’s matchup with the Alexandria Blizzard. The Bruins’ account executive Stephanie Bowe attributes the support to the cause, as all proceeds go to The Institute.

“It’s very important to have the support of the community,” Bowe said. “Without their support, we wouldn’t be here, so it’s important for us to give back to the community as much as we can to essentially thank them for supporting us.”

Like last year, the Bruins will paint the rink pink, wear pink uniforms, and sell raffle tickets at $5 per ticket or $20 for five. Raffle prizes include mascot Bruiser the Bear’s pink uniform signed by the team, and a $100 gift card to The Old Mill and one night’s stay at the Holiday Inn.

Gail Dennison, director of public relations for The Institute, said the community-celebration is a win-win.

“This is a wonderful way to support The Institute through these fundraiser activities, but the other side is it really brings the community together for an effort everyone cares about: finding answers to breast cancer,” she said.

To get involved, businesses can call the CVB at 507-437-4563 or visit its new website and click on the Paint the Town Pink tab.