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Yellowjacket women team up with St. Vincent Healthcare to create 'Pink Zone' for cancer awareness

Annual event takes on special meaning for Butte freshman

Ladie Jackets in Think Pink uniformsMSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Sports teams are like families. The players hang out together, travel together, laugh and cry together and celebrate together.

This weekend, the Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team spreads the family umbrella even further, using the team’s annual “Pink Zone” game to not only raise awareness of cancer issues, but to also help the family of one of their teammates.

The Yellowjackets will take on Seattle Pacific University in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference game at 7 p.m. at Alterowitz Gymnasium. All women will be admitted free as part of initiative, said MSU Billings Coach Kevin Woodin.

The “Pink Zone” initiative is a unified effort by the women’s basketball coaches across the country to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across college campuses, in communities and beyond. Woodin and the MSU Billings players have worked with St. Vincent Healthcare and the Eva Project for the past seven years to help coordinate information and awareness. St. Vincent even purchased pink uniforms for the team two years ago as a part of the ongoing relationship and the night will feature information on breast cancer detection, research, and local support groups. Cancer survivors will be honored at halftime. 

As a physical manifestation of their support, the Yellowjacket players and coaching staff will wear pink during the game. From pink shoelaces to pink fingernail polish to pink uniforms, the women’s basketball team will do its part to raise awareness about breast cancer issues. Even the referees will be involved with pink whistles. 

But all that pink will take on a special meaning for Quinn Peoples, an MSU Billings freshman and education major from Butte. Since 2007, she has had three family members diagnosed with cancer.

""The daughter of Don and Barb Peoples, Quinn Peoples’ family has done battle with cancer on a constant basis for the past five years.

Quinn’s oldest sister, Marissa, was diagnosed with Mixoid Fibrous Histiocytoma (MFH) in 2007.  She underwent months of chemotherapy and radiation in Seattle before undergoing a major operation to remove her tumor in 2008.  The surgery was successful and Mairissa was declared cancer free. But in
January 2010, the tumor returned and three more operations were necessary in the spring of 2010. Even though she was again considered cancer free, the tumor returned last month and the family is again working on a treatment plan with specialists in Seattle.

In addition, Quinn’s grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in December, 2010. This past year, her grandmother underwent surgery in Helena to remove her tumor. A week after that, her mother, Cathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer and also underwent surgery in Helena. And while she has been recovering from her surgery, continues to focus on her daughter’s treatment and care.  

Woodin said the monumental fight against cancer in the Peoples family inspired the team to do something different this year.

“My team and I are amazed at how they continue to keep such a positive attitude and face their cancer head on with both courage and faith,” Woodin said in an outreach letter that talked about this year’s “Pink Zone” game. “They are definitely a very strong family and our thoughts and prayers are with them daily.” 

Instead of just raising awareness, the team has been busy raising money to help the family off-set the Peoples’ family’s medical-related costs. The team has sold about 400 shirts whose proceeds will go to the Peoples family to assist them with their high medical expenses. 

Kalli Stanhope, a guard from Glendive and the Yellowjackets’ lone senior this year, said while the team takes on a variety of community-related projects during the year, the “Pink Zone” night takes on special meaning.

“This is one of our bigger games for us,” she said.

For Peoples, a quiet 5-11 forward who graduated from Butte Central High School, the commitment by her teammates for her family holds deep meaning.

“They have rallied around me and made me feel that there are a lot of people behind my family in this,” she said. “It’s really nice.”

One of the key messages to be carried by players and the healthcare community regarding cancer is early detection. With early detection through a mammogram, breast cancer can be identified and successfully treated. The St. Vincent Healthcare Eva Project provides free digital mammograms to limited-income women over 40 who would not otherwise be able to have one. Call 237-4373 for more information about the Eva Project.

For more information on the “Pink Zone” night, contact MSU Billings Athletics at 657-2369.

PHOTOS ABOVE: The MSU Billings women’s basketball team will be wearing pink this Saturday to help raise awareness for cancer research and to help teammate Quinn Peoples (number 33, third from left). Peoples, from Butte, has had three family members diagnosed with cancer since 2007, including her mother and sister. Below, Peoples is shown with senior guard Kalli Stanhope.


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