Pink brings in the green: Paint the Town raises $110K

Published 10:31 am Friday, February 15, 2013

Paint the Town Pink nearly doubled money raised from last year when it was revealed Thursday that overall the event raised $110, 500 for the Hormel Institute.

What started as a small event has blossomed into a major fundraiser to fight cancer, and this year’s Paint the Town Pink may be the seed for a new discovery in cancer research.

Dr. Zigang Dong, executive director of The Hormel Institute, shakes Jocelyn Sheehan’s hand and the hands of other Austin girls basketball team members after the team presented a check for $800 dollars to The Institute from their Shoot for a Cure night during Paint the Town Pink.

The Hormel Institute and Paint the Town Pink organizers announced Thursday this year’s Paint the Town Pink raised more than $110,000 this year, almost doubling the $62,500 or so raised last year.

“It was a total surprise,” said Dr. Zigang Dong, executive director of the Hormel Institute.

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The second annual event shattered previous fundraising records in many of this year’s events. The Austin Bruins donated almost $40,000 to The Institute through its Paint the Rink Pink event, more than $16,000 from last year’s total. In addition, the first-ever Plunging for Pink event brought in a little more than $16,000, while the fifth annual Fishing for a Cure brought in more than $13,000.

“What an amazing reflection of who Austin is, and what an honor for The Institute,” said Gail Dennison, Institute public relations director and Paint the Town Pink committee member.

Promising to use the money in the “most effective way possible,” Dong outlined a rough plan for this year’s donations: Researchers hope to divide the money to use in smaller, data-gathering projects which they can use to attract millions of dollars in grant money from organizations like the National Institute of Health.

“It will be seed money,” for the projects, Dong said.

Last year, the Institute used the $62,000 to secure matching donations from the University of Minnesota and the Eagles Cancer Telethon to purchase lab equipment, according to Dong.

Researchers say the support is moving, and helps to spur them in their work.

“We really, from our hearts, appreciate everything you do,” Dr. Ann Bode, associate director for The Institute, told Paint the Town Pink organizers.

The event has grown into a tradition where residents of all sorts find ways to contribute. Hormel Food Corp. employees at the Austin plant and corporate office donated more than $10,000 this year.

Riverland Community College students and staff raised a little more than $8,400. That amount was a little more than $3,500 short to reach the college’s $12,000 goal, which would prompt Riverland Physical Plant Manager Judy Enright to shave her already pink hair. Enright had mixed feelings over keeping her hair, as she was disappointed the college didn’t make its goal. Yet she’s already heard from people about next year’s efforts.

“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me saying they’ve got ideas for next year,” she said. “I got a lot of excitement here.”

Enright hasn’t decided what goal to set for next year. This year’s goal of $12,000 was in honor of Enright’s mother, Mary Baier, who passed away from cancer 12 years ago, and Enright said she may raise the goal to $13,000 next year for her mom.

Cheryl Corey, executive director of Austin’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the event will keep growing bigger and bigger as time goes on.

“The community has really come together behind Paint the Town Pink,” she said.

There’s already talk among volunteers about next years plans; Dennison and researchers joked about getting people to pay money to get out of next year’s Plunging for Pink, or maybe even dipping a finger or toe into Eastside Lake’s frigid waters.

“We’ll call it the Pinky Plunge,” Dennison said.


Funds to be used as seed money for bigger projects

Dr. Zigang Dong said researchers will design a plan to create a seed grant fund for this year’s donations to the Hormel Institute. Researchers will be able to use that fund to gather data used to propose and secure funding for bigger projects.

Organizers and participants in this year's Paint the Town Pink pose with a check for $110,500 Thursday, the amount raised by this year's event.

“A seed grant is a relatively small amount that will let scientists work on ideas, small projects, to get a set of project data,” Dong said. “[Scientists will] use that data for bigger plans, and ask organizations like the National Institute of Health [for larger grants.]”

Institute officials say they couldn’t put something like the seed grant fund together before such large donations were given to the research facility.

“We’ll try to use this money and grow it bigger and bigger,” Dong said.

Dong said Institute officials are still working out how to administer seed grants, which will most likely be used next year.