On Sunday, October 18, 2015, on a beautiful crisp autumn afternoon, a team of moms from Holland Township, NJ gathered together to play against the ladies from Lopatcong, NJ. It was a battle of Powder Puff football between the Reigel Ridge Rams and the Lopatcong Panthers. These fierce women were both set out to win the game but joined together for one cause...to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research.
It is estimated in the U.S. that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Though death rates have been decreasing over the years, in 2015 about 40,000 are expected to die from this disease. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women in America, along side skin cancer. Risks of developing and surviving/not surviving breast cancer vary due to age, genetics and family history, nationality, and overall health.
I was approached by Bridgette Majewski, one of the players of the Rams, to join their team. I had to decline but wanted to know if I can feature them for my October fitness blog. Fighting for this cause is personal to me because my mother is a breast cancer survivor. In 2012, she was diagnosed with stage 3 and then stage 4 breast cancer. She underwent a single mastectomy and then chemo. She was cancer free for 5 months after, but then cancer cells returned. After continued treatment, miraculously and thankfully the cancer cells have stopped progressing. I am inspired by my mom to promote health and strength to others and help lessen the risks through good health and exercise. However, to me, any level of improved physical health will never compare to the level of respect I have for her amazing strength, faith and courage from all she has endured. With no complaints, she continues to fight and win.
I asked the women "Why Powder Puff as oppose to other fundraisers?" and "How has this experience bonded you as women and as a team fighting for breast cancer?"
Megin Lentine: "Powder Puff was something I have never done before! It takes a tough woman to fight cancer...and a tough woman to play football."
Katrina Pyatt: "5k's and walk-a-thons are done often, most anyone can do those type of events...Powder Puff takes a special kind of lady."
Danielle Beyers: "Why Powder Puff.....I think that would be because we are all involved with football and cheer in some capacity, and that is our number one reason for our connection. We overcame our fears of the unknown and stepped out of our comfort zone."
Dana Stem also agrees that being moms of cheerleaders and football players is what initially bonded them.
Melissa Pecchia: "Football season and breast cancer awareness month ... The Powder Puff signifies that women are fighters and together we can beat cancer and bring awareness.
I haven't played a team sport since my college days. The Powder Puff practices and games brought me back to those glory days. I've forgotten how much fun it was! Thank you ladies.￼￼"
Trinae Rosato: "Thankful that I am healthy and able to play football and raise money for all those who are fighting the truly tough fight."
Kara Cobb: "Powder Puff because girls can be just as tough as boys. The team brought together a group of women who otherwise would not have met each other, and united us to fight for the same cause."
Bridgette Majewski: "I think it's a huge accomplishment for women! It was a challenge physically and mentally. Especially for " those" of us a tad older.... (Lol most of us are barely over 29 of course! ). I'm sure none of us ever thought we'd ever be playing football. Just like those women who never thought they would get cancer . But it presented itself and we made it out alive! Lol"
Corinne Covino: "For me, I played because not only was it a great time with some amazing ladies, but to raise awareness. Cancer is rough both for the individual and their families. Playing as a team you become your own little family. One player gets hurt or knocked down or has their flag taken and the whole team feels the loss. The same with scoring a touchdown or getting a good run. The whole team feels that victory. Raising awareness for breast cancer by showing how tough women can be and what we can do together is an amazing experience. And I can't wait to do it again!"
Gavin, 6 years old, and Jaxon, 4 years old, help collect donations. They are cheering on their mom, Sharon Bingert #28.
When I asked if anyone wanted to share their personal experience with cancer, Mary Malone, mother of four boys, opens up about her past story of hope and survival:
Mary Malone: "I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when I was 26. I had surgery and chemo, lost my hair and went through treatment with other cancer patients, including breast cancer patients. Some of them survived, some passed. My kind of cancer was curable and although it was a horrible experience, I knew I was going to be a survivor. I can't imagine feeling the unknown which many other women felt. Most were young like myself at the time. It is important for me to support the cause and also realize how lucky I am that I can play and I feel healthy."
The President of the Reigel Ridge Rams, Simeon Pecchia, hopes that this event will continue to grow in support as they play more games and help spread awareness.
Simeon Pecchia: "Powder Puff is a great event. It bonds not only the women who participate, but their families as well. It promotes breast cancer awareness and raises money for it. Powder Puff allows the moms to experience what their children do on the field all season long. Plus, it's great, healthy exercise. The NFL promotes breast cancer awareness in the month of October. So do the Riegel Ridge Rams. This event ties it all together."
On that crisp autumn Sunday afternoon, the Reigel Ridge Rams are defeated by the Lopatcong Panthers, final score, 0 to 3. Both teams, courageous and tough, gave it their all out on the field. They fought a good fight so that the women that we love and everywhere can win the battle.
My mom enjoying her grandson.
The Reigel Ridge Rams, October 18, 2015
Back row: Jennifer Kersten, Bridgette Majewksi, Allison Kollmer, Kara Cobb, Megin Lentine, Sharon Bingert, Coach: Vinnie Majewski, Phil Bush (Not pictured).
Middle row: Trinae Rosato, Mary Denvir, Danielle Beyers, Sybil Rainey, Melissa Pecchia, Dana Stem.
Bottom row: Corinne Covino, Katrina Pyatt, Kristin Christie, Jamie Sloyer, Kristin Bonham.
*Be Your Own Fit would like to thank the Team and Coaches and the President of the Reigel Ridge Rams for their contribution. And my mom for inspiring this article.*
Irma Ilao is a certified Master Trainer and Fitness Nutritionist at Be Your Own Fit, and a professional photographer. All photos are credit to Irma Ilao Photography.