Cardinal Newman girls’ volleyball teams raise money for cancer research

Dig Pink

Dig PinkCOLUMBIA—The girls’ volleyball teams from Cardinal Newman School and Hammond Academy were definitely in the pink during a recent rivalry game.
Outfitted in rose-colored jerseys, the squads faced off in a gymnasium awash in decorations in many shades of pink. The colors were a tribute dubbed Dig Pink held to raise awareness and collect donations for breast cancer research.
The evening honored the late Janice Duke, who died of the disease in 2003.
Duke was the founder of the volleyball program at Hammond, where she coached from 1978-83. She was also the mother of Candi Watson, Cardinal Newman’s assistant volleyball coach.
Watson’s husband Bob is head volleyball coach, and both are Cardinal Newman graduates. She said her ties to both schools made the evening especially poignant.
“It was pretty overwhelming and I was very humbled by how many people knew my mom, and I can appreciate what a great influence and role model she was,” Watson said. “This evening was exciting because the kids were so excited about it, and it’s important to do anything we can to spread awareness about breast cancer.”
During a moment of silent prayer, members of the crowd who have been affected by breast cancer were asked to stand. About half of the 250 people present rose to their feet.
Dig Pink is part of a new program called Cardinal Newman Cares, started by Jeff DiBattisto, the athletic director. It requires each athletic team to complete a service project, beyond the service hours already required for every student.
Those who play multiple sports are required to take part in a project with each team.
“Student athletes are role models in the community and fortunate to have what they have, so it’s important that they give back,” DiBattisto said. “This program is an extension of what they already do, and it shows we’re preparing them to be lifelong service givers.”
Each team can do its own project, or the teams from each sport (B-squad, junior varsity and varsity) can work together.
Dig Pink was the second Cardinal Newman Cares event.
Earlier, the swim team spent half a day cleaning the grounds and taking care of animals at the Columbia shelter on Shop Road.
DiBattisto said the athletes have been positive about the new program so far.
Abby Rutz, 18, a senior on the varsity volleyball team, suggested the Dig Pink project after hearing about similar events at other schools.
Rutz was one of four girls who spoke about breast cancer facts during a program held between the junior varsity and varsity games.
“I was very emotional while I was reading during the program, seeing a lot of people who have family members and friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said. “It was emotional to see how all the people came, how everyone participated and came together. I think we made a lot of difference.”
The teams collected $1,300 for the Palmetto Richland Cancer Foundation.