Westside’s Pink Day raises over $17,500 for breast cancer research

November 1, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

A spectacular pink wave swept through the community last week as Westside Secondary School celebrated 15 years of support for the Breast Cancer Society of Canada’s ‘Dress for the Cause’ event. 

‘Pink Day’, as it has come to be known in Orangeville, was another rousing success this year, with students and staff from Westside raising more than $17,500 for breast cancer research. As the event’s top fundraiser nationwide for four years running, one of the organizers behind Pink Day is optimistic over the school’s chances of securing an unprecedented ‘five-peat’. 

“That really would be something special, to be the top fundraiser for the fifth straight year,” said Christine Kirkland, a guidance counsellor at Westside. “The kids here do such an amazing job year after year. This is an event that runs right across Canada. Our kids, on a regular basis, are beating out corporations, bigger schools, it’s phenomenal. We’re not a large operation. We’re a small school. It’s fantastic what we’re able to achieve.”

Since that first event in Orangeville back in 2004, Pink Day at Westside has raised more than $250,000 for cancer research. The event has taken on a new life, and a greater meaning in recent years, with the entire school community seemingly buying in to ensure the spirit of Pink Day sweeps through the entire community. 

The day itself kicked off with an early pancake breakfast, which drew hundreds of guests and raised more than $2,000. Then, starting at approximately 8 a.m. and continuing through the day., students participated in fun games and special activities – buying their way out of class. The spectacle ended with a school-wide assembly, beginning at 1:30 p.m., which featured a slew of activities and saw more than a dozen students and staff members cut off their hair and, in some cases, even shave their head to raise even more money for the cause. 

“I’m extremely proud and honoured to be able to be part of this incredible event,” said Westside Principal Deidre Wilson. “To be here working with the kids and staff, they’re just a great group of people who take this day so seriously. They believe in the cause. The kids know why they’re doing it, which makes it even more special, because they truly care.”

She added, “This is what Westside does. This is what we’re known for. The students and staff seem to pull it out year after year.”

As an exciting tidbit, Ms. Kirkland noted that if the school is successful in claiming the title of top national fundraiser once again, the Breast Cancer Society of Canada would dedicate $5,000 to the chemotherapy unit at Headwaters Health Care Centre. 

When we asked Ms. Kirkland why she felt Pink Day was so special at Westside, she explained the cause was something practically anyone could connect with. 

“Breast cancer represents one in four for all cancers for women across the globe. The reality is that everyone knowns someone who has been affected by this disease,” Ms. Kirkland stated. “We’ve worked really hard to create something that is really special here at Westside. This is entirely student-driven now. The support, the unity this school displays every single year. It’s special.”

The Citizen caught up with several students over the course of the day in an attempt to understand just how much this event means to our local youth. 

For Hunter Shaw, a Grade 11 student, he sees Pink Day as an opportunity to give back. While he had no idea he was going to do it at the start of the day, Hunter made a spur-of-the-moment decision to shave his head on Friday, raising more than $150 over a five-minute period to seal the deal. When asked what inspired him to go through with it, he shrugged and smiled.

“Every little bit counts. I’m just doing my part to help,” he said.

Fellow Grade 11 students Tia Moore, Lexie Delisle and Vanessa Winney helped to form the student executive charged with organizing this year’s Pink Day. Reached at the conclusion of the assembly, they each had their own special reason for taking part.

“Pink Day has always been one of my favourite events, even before I started here at Westside. My grandma was diagnosed with cancer when I was about to start Grade 9, so that was very hard for me. She died when I was in Grade 10,” Ms. Winney told the Citizen. “Cancer is something that has impacted my family massively.”

Lexie Delisle simply enjoys the spirit of the day. She had heard stories about Pink Day prior to starting at Westside a couple of years ago, but experiencing it first-hand is something special, she said, noting how nice it is to see the entire student body pulling together in the same direction to support such an important cause. 

It’s that collective school spirit that really resonates with Tia Moore, too. 

“Pink Day is such a big deal here at Westside and here in Orangeville. In a time where school spirit is maybe going downhill and people aren’t as connected or passionate (about school events) as they once were, to see what happens here every year for Pink Day is awesome. Contributing to things, especially for a cause like this, it gives people so much hope,” said Ms. Moore. “Although this doesn’t impact me personally, I know it’s an important issue. Rather than spending my time doing things that aren’t helpful to anything, I’d like to do something impactful. That’s why I got involved.”

Now, with another Pink Day in the rear view mirror, students and staff will be keeping their fingers and toes crossed in the hope  Westside is successful in doing the unthinkable and becoming the top national fundraiser for a fifth successive year. Whatever the case, Kimberly Carson, CEO of the Breast Cancer Society of Canada has gone on record to thank all those involved in helping make Pink Day the incredible spectacle it is here in Orangeville.

“The dedication of Westside Secondary School students, faculty and administration to help find a cure for breast cancer is truly inspirational. Not only does Westside host an amazing ‘Pink Day’ fundraiser, they also enlist the support of their entire community,” Ms. Carson said. “We are grateful to anyone who donated their time and money to Westside. Thank you for your spirit and continued support of our vision to end breast cancer.”

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