Golden Gaels go pink

Personal connections help inspire cancer awareness campaign

The Gaels have worn pink apparel during October to support breast cancer awareness for nearly a decade.
The Gaels have worn pink apparel during October to support breast cancer awareness for nearly a decade.
Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan’s personal connection to breast cancer plays a role in his team’ supporting the cause.
Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan’s personal connection to breast cancer plays a role in his team’ supporting the cause.

For one month a year, another colour joins the Queen’s trifecta of red, blue and gold.

The Gaels football team dons pink apparel each October to raise breast cancer awareness. Over the past couple of years, it’s become an increasingly common practice for squads in both the collegiate and professional ranks to show their support.

Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan said his team has taken part for nearly a decade.

“I think it’s something that filtered down from the pros and our kids thought was sort of good civic responsibility to do the same thing,” he said. “It’s been a number of years — I’d say almost 10 — that they’ve been doing something fashionable for breast cancer and its awareness here in October.”

The cause has extra meaning for Sheahan, as there are breast cancer survivors in his family.

“It had a real personal attachment for me,” he said. “Knowing that however small, we could do something to assist in the research by raising funds and raising awareness is the least we can do, in my view.”

In addition to symbolic support from wearing pink equipment, the team also takes part in fundraising initiatives to benefit breast cancer charities. The Gaels raised over $3,000 in a fundraising campaign last year.

The sport’s larger role in raising awareness, whether it comes from the NFL, CFL or university teams, is something Sheahan said is a major benefit to helping fight the disease.

Breast cancer is the second-deadliest cancer among Canadian women, killing one of every 30 women in Canada.

“I think that to assist in the eradication of this killer, it’s a responsibility more people certainly recognize,” Sheahan said. “I think the efforts of the athletes — both ours and the broader base of athletes out there who are supporting this cause — will help bring more support, more awareness and perhaps a more acute attack on the disease.”

Anything that can be done to help fight breast cancer is a step in the right direction, Sheahan said, from increases in the amount of funding for research to the amount of awareness the cause receives.

In addition to his own personal connection to the disease, Sheahan said a few of the Gaels’ players have also been affected.

“We’ve had a few of our players, there’s been stuff that’s happened that’s been quite personal,” he said. “We’ve had a few mothers.”

Sheahan said the potential for Queen’s students to remain engaged in causes such as this is an integral part of the student experience.

“I would hope that, for the greater body of Queen’s students that are going to end up leaders in a variety of different areas, that they continue to maintain a leadership in the community for these causes,” he said.

“It’s just law of averages – some of us are going to be impacted by this disease by family members,” Sheahan added. “Whether it be mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, it’s something that we recognize and we’re going to continue to support it.”

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