From professional franchises like the Buffalo Bills and the NFL, to our sons and daughters donning high school uniforms on scholastic fields throughout Western New York, athletes wearing pink has become a major symbol of cancer awareness and society’s fight against it.

Throughout the month of October, Lockport student-athletes will wear not only their traditional school colors, but the color pink — which has come to symbolize the fight against breast cancer.

At Lockport High School, athletics director Todd Sukdolak said so far, two LHS teams are doing some type of fundraising for cancer and next month, you’ll see a slight change in LHS uniforms. During the national Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Lions athletes will wear not only their traditional Royal blue and gold school colors, but pink as well.

“Most teams will at some point wear pink socks or shirts at games in October as well as other activities,” Sukdolak said.

Last month was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Sukdolak said over the past two seasons LHS varsity football players have volunteered their time to interact with cancer patients and their families at two events designed to provide some respite from the challenges they are facing.

Last December, Lions football players volunteered at the Carly’s Club Holiday Party held at the Buffalo Convention Center, and in May 2014 and 2015, they served as chaperons to young ladies at the TLC (Teens Living with Cancer) Prom held at the Adams Mark & Hotel Lafayette.

“Former LHS assistant football coach Brendan Brady initiated our involvement with these organizations and is now coaching at Clarence, our opponent on (Sept. 18),” Sukdolak said last month.

Coach Brady teamed with Carly’s Club to organize the following events at the LHS-Clarence football game on Sept. 18:

• A fund-raising auction

• Introduction of the teens at halftime

• A meet & greet among the teens, their families and players from both teams after the game.

The LHS football program contributed to that event by having its varsity football players collect donations in lunch periods from Wednesday through Friday; donating proceeds from the weekly Casual for Causes collection at LHS; and purchasing gold socks that were worn by players on both teams in the game.

Meanwhile, LHS cheerleaders are actively seeking sponsors from the community (businesses) to sponsor them and all money goes to cancer awareness.

In the winter months, cancer awareness sports programs have also become common-place at the LHS pool, where Lions boys swim coach John Sullivan started it all a little less than a decade ago.

After reading an article in the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (NISCA) Journal, Sullivan came up with the idea behind the Canal Crusade Swim Meet, which began as a girls meet to promote breast cancer awareness and today serves as an fundraiser for organ and tissue transplant research.

The moving article raised awareness for money and research in the treatment of breast cancer, in honor of high school coach who was stricken with it.

The article had a profound impact on Sullivan, who shared it with then LHS girl’s varsity swim coach Kristen Smith. The Lady Lions were equally impressed by the story and decided to participate in a similar meet against the Starpoint Lady Spartans swim team in October of 2009. Both teams, along with coaches, officials and spectators too, were outfitted in pink and united under the banner of, “Fight Like a Girl — Two Teams, One Cure,” while raising money for Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo.

Coaches Sullivan and Tim Menges (Starpoint) wanted to elevate the status of the annual Starpoint versus Lockport boys swim meet, and after watching the success of the girls’ meet, the two men started to explore the possibility of a similar venture around one cause — organ and tissue donation. Tim’s father had been the recipient of a heart transplant in Central New York 16 years earlier and this was an issue that was very meaningful for him and his family. As a result of this, the relationship between the Lockport and Starpoint Swim Teams and Upstate New York Transplant Services (UNYTS) was forged.

Cancer awareness through high school sports continues as well in the spring with the annual Strike Out Cancer softball game hosted by the Lockport Lady Lions, under the direction in recent years of now retired coach Julie Kwoka.

At the fourth annual Strike Out Cancer game last May at LHS, the visiting Grand Island Lady Vikings defeated the Lady Lions, 3-0, behind a no-hitter from winning pitcher Alley Cutting. All the money raised was donated to cancer research.

Contact US&J Sports Editor John D’Onofrio at john.donofrio@lockportjournal.com.

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