By: Jackie LaPenta
This Friday the Rampage will drop the gloves and join the fight against a new opponent as they face off against breast cancer and host their first-ever “Pink in the Rink Night”.
The team will trade in their traditional uniforms for a pink-themed jersey and will skate on pink ice to make for a truly special night. For the first time in franchise history the ice will be dyed an alternate color than the usual white surface. After the game the team will auction off their jerseys and a select number of pink autographed hockey sticks with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Komen San Antonio.
This unique event has the potential of drawing the highest attendance in franchise history but for one special fan the night will be more than just another hockey game.
Billie Jane Clark is the grandmother of Rampage rookie defenseman Chris Summers and has been bravely battling breast cancer for the past two years. After being diagnosed, she underwent a complete mastectomy losing one of her breasts.
Despite looking down a frightening path, Clark continues to find the brighter side of things through the course of her treatment process.
“While that was a hard procedure to endure, it kept me from having to go through chemotherapy which I am truly fortunate,” said Clark.
In order for Clark to keep her head held high she fostered a strong attitude that would not allow this disease to burden her.
“Some people act very secretive and ashamed when they are diagnosed and I never understood that,” explained Clark. “I have developed the attitude, that if I can’t see it, it won’t hold me down.”
The American Hockey League (AHL) has become a huge advocate in supporting the fight against breast cancer as more and more teams host pink-themed nights each year to raise both money and awareness about the disease and help find a cure.
While the fans always enjoy this night of festivities, the players also hold this game close to their hearts.
Rampage center Bracken Kearns, whose aunt passed away after a year-long battle with breast cancer, has competed in more than 300 AHL games and participated in several breast cancer awareness nights.
“I have skated in a ‘Pink in the Rink Night’ every season over the last four years,” said Kearns. “It is very important to me considering I lost my aunt to the disease and I think it’s a great event that teams have perpetuated.”
For Summers, who is in his first full professional season, this game will present a new experience.
“This is my first time skating on pink ice,” said Summers. “The last game my grandmother was able to attend was when I played at the University of Michigan, so it is wonderful that she is making her first trip to San Antonio to be a part of this occasion.”
Clark is very excited about taking a quick vacation to visit her grandson in Texas and finds it to be a great inspiration that a sports organization has shown such a strong passion for this cause.
“It’s wonderful that the hockey league has taken such an interest in promoting breast cancer awareness,” said an enthused Clark. “If more sports teams did this, I think people would listen.”
Besides spending time with her grandson and cheering him on during the game, Clark is looking forward to reaching out to others as a voice of experience on the subject.
“I think it is important to get the word of breast cancer out there,” said Clark. “And I feel it may mean more coming from someone who is not a professional or on television, but someone like me, a wife, mother and grandmother, who can relate to the everyday woman through my experience.”
Clark’s message is clear. Recognition of the ailment and gaining knowledge of what is happening to your body is the best weapon, and the most effective strategy is to handle the situation directly and promptly.
“The acceptance of dealing with the disease is important,” stresses Clark. “You can’t be afraid of it. I also have heart disease, as do many women, and I am more afraid of that because you never know when a heart attack is going to strike.”
“Cancer is different,” she adds. “With so many treatments available nowadays, cancer is something you can deal with head on.”
Summers is very proud of the strength his grandmother has shown throughout this process.
“She has really turned a negative into a positive by being a voice for others,” states Summers. “Her upbeat attitude has made it easier on our family to deal with the treatment process, and I know how excited she is to come down here and pass that on to others.”
Fans can show their support for Clark, the fight against breast cancer and the Rampage, by attending the game against the Chicago Wolves this Friday at 7 p.m. at the AT&T Center. To purchase your tickets, call a Rampage representative at 210.444.5554.