By Leora Ruzin @LeoraKitty78
The NFL officially designated October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 2009 with the unveiling of their “Crucial Catch” campaign. The campaign is meant to help spread awareness and push for early detection of breast cancer, with NFL teams adopting the color pink in their stadiums and on their uniforms. Since its inception, the “Crucial Catch” campaign has helped raise over $15 million from the sale or auction of game-worn uniforms and other “pink gear”, with much of that money going towards breast cancer research and outreach.
In an unprecedented move, the Denver Broncos developed a new initiative meant to expand awareness to all forms of cancer through their “Fight Like a Bronco” campaign. In addition to continuing to participate in the NFL’s “Crucial Catch” campaign throughout the month of October, the Broncos enhanced their annual “Salute to Survivors” game on October 9th to include survivors and their families who have suffered from all types of cancer.
This week I had the opportunity to speak with Liz Mannis, Manager of Community Development for the Denver Broncos, about this ground-breaking move towards bringing awareness to all forms of cancer.
Liz, First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. As a lifelong Broncos fan, and someone who has been battling cancer off and on for over 13 years, I was especially moved to see that the Broncos organization has decided to recognize all forms of cancer through the “Fight Like a Bronco” campaign. On to the questions!
Q: October has been recognized as “Breast Cancer Awareness” month for several years. Fans the world over have grown accustomed to football fields being adorned with all things “pink” for the entire month. What prompted the Broncos to piggyback off the NFL’s “Crucial Catch” initiative with the “Fight Like a Bronco” campaign?
We have people internally—colleagues and the larger Broncos family—who have or are battling various forms of cancer. Also, every year we would get feedback from our fans in response to the breast cancer specific game. We heard that feedback and evaluated where we were at and felt it was time, and the appropriate move, to be more inclusive and celebrate survivors of all cancers—men, women and children. It was an important step for us as an organization to take to evolve and be more inclusive.
Q: Will the Broncos continue with the campaign throughout the entire month of October? If so, are there other events off the field that the Broncos are planning in support of the campaign?
We have continued to push out messaging from our players about their experiences with cancer, and the importance of keeping up with your health and screening on our social media channels (Twitter: @BroncosOffField; Facebook: www.facebook.com/BroncosCommunity). We had a soft launch of our Fight Like a Bronco campaign during training camp this summer when we hosted a smaller group of cancer survivors on the VIP Balcony for a special experience. Additionally, we have players visiting UC Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Denver throughout the year, with many of the visits including stops at the oncology areas of the hospitals.
Q: Is this an initiative that will become an annual tradition, and if so, how do you anticipate it changing and growing in the years to come?
Yes, we will continue to use our annual Salute to Survivors game to celebrate survivors of all cancers under the Fight Like a Bronco umbrella. In the future I anticipate us trying to implement year-round awareness messaging to help encourage people to understand their health, risks, and screening needs. The statistics that are out there on early detection and treatment and the resulting benefits are really staggering, so I really think continuing to educate people can translate to lives saved. We had a ton of folk reach out asking to purchase the gear, so I’d imagine we will sell items with proceeds benefiting cancer research, awareness, etc.
Q: There are so many different types of cancer, and it can affect people in so many different ways. Do you have a personal experience you would like to share, and if so, did that experience help guide you during the planning of this initiative?
Unfortunately, I think the vast majority of people have been touched by cancer. I’ve lost people in my life to cancer, and have also had people close to me battle and survive cancer. It’s an awful, awful disease and it knows no boundaries. Cancer affects people of all races, genders, socioeconomic statuses and more.
Q: What can we do as fans to help spread the word of the “Fight Like a Bronco” campaign? Are there items that can be purchased, or donations that can be made?
I anticipate that in the future we will sell our Fight Like a Bronco gear with proceeds benefiting cancer research and awareness. At our game on October 9th, the Broncos donated $20k to Susan G. Komen Colorado for breast cancer research and $40k to the American Cancer Society for pediatric cancer research and colorectal screening. Whether it’s giving time, money, advocacy efforts or really anything, I just think it’s important for people to be involved with causes they are passionate about.
One of the most powerful elements to come from our Fight Like a Bronco campaign is that people are sharing their journey and battle with cancer online and tagging #FightLikeABronco. My favorite part of our Salute to Survivors game is seeing the survivors connect with each other and develop meaningful relationships, and this is taking it a step further into the digital media space, so I definitely encourage people to share their stories, you never know how that can be comforting or inspiring to someone else.
Q: The Broncos organization is well known for the amazing things they do off the field to help the local community. Are there any other projects coming up that you can share with me?
That is very kind of you to say. We have an amazing platform and take that seriously in our department and organization. On November 1, we will host our 19th annual Drive for Life community blood drive with Bonfils Blood Center. I was at an event this week and learned that since our inaugural Drive For Life, we have been able to improve or save about 34,000 lives due to blood products donated through the blood drive, which is really a testament to our community here. A lot of people think of donating blood and the blood supply when there’s a major tragedy or accident, but the need for blood is year round and used for a myriad of health issues, including cancer treatment.
NFL Female would like to thank Liz Mannis for taking the time to speak to us, and for sharing the work of the Denver Broncos Community Development team.
Featured image courtesy: denverbroncos.com
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