By (Terrin Waack)

The University of Alabama campus slowly but surely started to glow pink this past week. The lights are a reminder that the 12th annual Power of Pink gymnastics meet on Friday against No. 25 Kentucky. More importantly, the lights remind people why the Power of Pink was started, why this specific meet means so much to the program and its fans.

Former coach Sarah Patterson, who was with Alabama for 36 years before retiring in July of 2014, came up with the Power of Pink idea in 2004. The annual meet raises breast cancer awareness and money towards the DCH Breast Cancer Fund, more than $1.6 million has been raised over the years.

Early into her second season as coach, Dana Duckworth has unofficially taken over as the ambassador for Power of Pink, but she does so on behalf of Patterson.

“This is an honor to be able to create and carry on what she really started,” Duckworth said. “She had that initial vision and it grew, and it grew. It’s really more of an honor – and a privilege – to be able to allow her legacy to live within me and within the program by carrying on the Power of Pink.”

Duckworth coached the team to success during last season’s Power of Pink meet against Boise State, winning 197.800 to 195.450.

The pink leotards have always brought the team success. Whether it be home in Coleman Coliseum or on the road, Alabama is undefeated (22-0) when sporting the pink leotards. Kentucky is no stranger to Alabama’s Power of Pink meet. Friday will mark the Wildcats third appearance.

Duckworth is excited about being able to compete for a bigger purpose, a selfless purpose, and she’s not alone. The Power of Pink meets are senior Lauren Beers’ favorite.

“This meet night in particular ever year, we really just go out there and we don’t do it for ourselves,” she said. “We do it for the people in the stands and the ladies standing next to us.”

Before the meet begins, instead of being introduced alone as they usually would, the Alabama gymnasts escort a breast cancer survivor out onto the “circle A” to introduce and recognize those strong women.

Beers loves the different introductions and being able to do that for those women. She sees them nervous before but realizes how it actually means a lot to them.

“I think for them, it’s really special just being able to be in the spotlight for that short amount of time and being able to be recognized for all their determination and fight they put in throughout their lives,” Beers said. “It’s really just something they can hold onto and cherish for the rest of their lives.”

Although Beers doesn’t personally know anyone with breast cancer, this night still means a lot to her, but for some of her teammates, it hits close to home.

During last year’s meet, now-junior Aja Sims escorted her aunt, Vernell Thomas, who’s fought breast cancer since 2007.

“It just meant a lot to me because I wasn’t always with her when she was struggling through it, but I know my family had hard times with it, and now that she’s a breast cancer survivor, it means a whole lot,” Sims said. “It makes you think about life differently, so just Friday night, I’m really going to be thinking about other, just helping others. That’ll really help us just step out of ourselves and do the best that we can.”

Although her aunt can’t make it down for this year’s meet, Sims said she’ll definitely be watching it up in New Jersey on TV.

Some former honorees will not be able to watch Alabama compete this year.

Alabama graduate Jessica Bailey was honored in the 2014 Power of Pink meet, but Duckworth said unfortunately, Bailey recently lost her fight to breast cancer a couple weeks ago. During that meet, Bailey was introduced with then-senior Diandra Milliner but was supported by all the gymnasts.

“They stood on the circle A with a college student that didn’t win that battle,” Duckworth said.

The raising money part is important, but what is just as, if not more, important is for women, like Sims’ aunt or Bailey, to have their stories told. Duckworth said these stories prove that breast cancer doesn’t discriminate.

So the fundraising for the DCH Breast Cancer Fund is one thing. Educating women about breast cancer awareness, early detection and cures is another, and it’s what Duckworth hopes to do Friday night.

“If Alabama gymnastics can be a platform to get that message out, it’s an honor,” she said.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports