For nine years, the Kansas State women’s basketball program has dedicated one home game each season in February to the color pink.
That tradition continued Saturday afternoon, as the Wildcats wore pink jerseys, ready to help promote breast cancer awareness in Bramlage Coliseum.
The first 4,000 fans Saturday received free pink K-State t-shirts. Iowa State players wore white jerseys with pink trim and both coaching staffs honored the movement with pink shirts and shoes.
It was the Wildcats’ sixth straight year taking part in the national “Play 4 Kay” initiative, named after former North Carolina State head coach Kay Yow, who lost a long battle with breast cancer on Jan. 24, 2009.
“I want to thanks all the people of Manhattan and the surrounding communities that supported our ‘Play 4 Kay’ initiative today,” K-State head coach Deb Patterson said.
“It was so great to see all the pink in the stands and everybody rallying together on behalf of a very tremendous and important cause.”
To Patterson, the “Play 4 Kay” event means more than just pink t-shirts. It means her team has the opportunity to use the stage its given through sport for a much bigger cause.
“So much of this initiative, as it relates to cancer, is early detection, prevention, awareness, communication and not taking anything for granted — especially in the athletic community where there is such a network,” Patterson said. “These young people are going to go out into the world, and they’ll never have a network as tight as the one that they’re a part of now.
“So, when we see those thousands of people come into the stands wearing pink, and we’re wearing those pink jerseys, we just hope that it really spread that message.”
Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly is no stranger to the “Play 4 Kay” initiative either. After his team’s 69-50 win over K-State Saturday, he also took a moment to describe what the movement has meant to him.
“We’ve played three (“Play 4 Kay” games) in a row, at Oklahoma, ours (in Ames) and today’s, so our kids have been a part of three very special events,” Fennelly said. “It’s one of those things, and I’ve said this many times, it brings awareness today, but let’s be aware of it all the time, not just when someone is wearing a pink shirt.
“Certainly, it’s an honor to be a part of it, and I’m running out of pink things to wear.”
Elaine Sears, a K-State basketball fan from Abilene, has had season tickets for almost a decade and said the breast cancer awareness game each year is something she looks forward to.
“I have a drawer full of pink shirts from these games,” Sears said, “but I think it’s wonderful that they do it here, and that they do it all over the nation.”
Senior point guard Mariah White has played in four pink home games during her career at K-State. She said this day is important because its bigger than basketball.
“We’re just thankful to be playing and we just want to let everyone know we are supporting those people who do have cancer,” she said. “We just want to go out there and play for them.”