October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and those in the Ohio Valley looking to show their support can do so on Thursday, October 13 at the Think Pink event from 5 to 8 p.m. at Wheeling Park’s White Palace.
The Think Pink organization was founded in 2003 by the late Janie Altmeyer to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer as she herself was undergoing treatment. Following her passing in 2006, friends and family honored her legacy by continuing the event.
Nearly 20 years later, the Think Pink event continues to raise funds for the Janie Altmeyer Fund, which helps local uninsured and underinsured individuals pay for the cost of breast cancer screening and treatment. The group collaborates with the American Cancer Society to identify those in need of assistance and has donated over $200,000 since it began.
Event chairperson Julie Joseph has been involved with Think Pink for nine years and emphasizes how much this support is needed.
“One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime – a staggering statistic,” Joseph said. “This year, 232,670 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and men.”
Think Pink returns this year after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. While the event had traditionally been a luncheon, this year’s event will be a dinner, complete with a cash bar, live entertainment by Bob Gaudio and a silent auction. The meal for the evening will consist of vegetable lasagna – a nod to founder Janie Altmeyer and her famous recipe – as well as chicken, salmon, salad and bread.
The lasagnas will be prepared by culinary students at Wheeling Park and John Marshall High Schools, while the remainder of the meal will be made by Chef Adam Luiso of Chef N Company. The evening’s dessert bar will consist of treats donated by local vendors.
The event is truly a community undertaking, with support coming in the form of sponsorships from local businesses and donations from vendors and community members for meal ingredients and silent auction items.
“We live in such a generous and caring community, which is why this fundraiser is such a big success every year,” said Joseph.
A limited number of tickets are available and can be purchased by calling 304-312-0307. If available, tickets may be sold at the door.
The Platinum Level sponsor for Think Pink this year is WVU Medicine – Wheeling Hospital, which operates the Breast Center to provide comprehensive care for the prevention, screening and treatment of breast cancer.
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Dr. Rosemarie Hardin, MD, Breast Surgical Oncologist, has been with the Breast Center at Wheeling Hospital for 12 years. “We have a comprehensive breast center with state-of-the-art imaging and multidisciplinary programs like medical oncology, radiation oncology and surgery,” said Dr. Hardin. “We work with patients all the way from diagnosis through completion of treatment and long-term follow up.”
Wheeling Hospital also offers 3D mammography and MRI screenings, which are extremely useful for early detection of breast cancer. These tests can be used for higher risk patients who have a family history of breast cancer or other factors like dense breast tissue.
The majority of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer show no symptoms and have normal breast exams, and the disease is usually discovered through mammography testing. While there is no way to prevent breast cancer, regular screenings help identify the disease in early stages before symptoms present, which improves prognosis.
Current guidelines advise women over 40 to undergo an annual mammogram. However, this recommendation may be affected by family history. Dr. Hardin says the effects of COVID-19 have made an impact on women seeking preventative care.
“During COVID, a lot of elective services weren’t going on, and many may have skipped their annual mammogram because of that,” said Dr. Hardin. “It gets easier to skip it year after year. If you have postponed your screenings, please get scheduled.”
In addition to supporting breast cancer patients through her day job, Dr. Hardin also gives back to the community by serving as the Auction Chairperson for the Think Pink event. She worked with businesses and members of the community to secure donations for the silent auction and raffle that will take place at the event.
Dr. Hardin says she is grateful for the tremendous efforts that go into making Think Pink such a successful event, and it is so rewarding to see all the support that goes directly back into the community.
• Wheeling native Jennifer Materkoski is a graduate of West Liberty University and Kent State University, where she earned a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications. Before beginning her current role as director of communications and employee engagement for a global business process outsourcing firm, Jennifer worked in local media and non-profit communications. She is a current board member of Generation Wheeling, also chairing the organization’s Work Committee. She lives in Wheeling with her husband, Rich, and her three children: Mason, Mercer and Miller.