Heading into a final week of unblemished pastel power, Volley for a Cure 2013 is keeping a pink eye focused on the annual Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon on Thursday and the much anticipated “Paint the Town Pink” day Friday.
As the week ends and another VFAC blankets the community in hope, all things pink will converge on Lee University’s Paul Dana Walker Arena for a prized volleyball matchup between the Lee Lady Flames and Valdosta State, a new rival from the NCAA Division II Gulf South Conference.
And a lighthearted side to this campaign for breast cancer awareness continues its nocturnal trek down paths of pink and lawns of green — at least, through Thursday — as the fourth annual Flamingo Flock adorns unsuspecting hosts with small armies of morning surprise.
By now, the Flamingo Flock is Cleveland’s worst-kept secret; but then again, mum’s not exactly the word on this tickled-pink VFAC rage that leaders at Flocking Headquarters believe will add a projected $3,000 to the campaign coffers. VFAC proceeds support the MaryEllen Locher Foundation and scholarships for students and families whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer.
Last year, VFAC raised about $23,500 in total — after expenses — for foundation scholarships. And flamingo flockers were a big part of it.
This year’s Flamingo Flock rules are the same. Friends, family and loved ones who want to have the lawns of other friends, family and loved ones “flocked” with an
array of pink flamingo figurines can make a donation — whose amount is based on number of flamingos ordered — and the rest will be left up to volunteer flockers.
Once a lawn has been flocked, the home’s occupants can pay to have the same done to someone else. It’s all volunteer. It’s all done in good spirits. And it’s all about helping a worthy cause.
The only difference with this year’s flocking campaign is a change in locale of Flocking Headquarters. For the first three years, a hardworking bunch of flockers at The Plastic Surgery Clinic of Cleveland, led by Dr. Michael Hoops and his pink-frenzied staff, handled the flamingo follies. But this year, the feathered torch has been handed off to Doctors Express.
“We’ve had a great response this year, better than ever,” according to Kristi Muhonen, queen flocker by night and Doctors Express administrator by day. “Our last night of flocking will be Thursday night. They’ll appear Thursday during the day at the Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon and at the Volley for a Cure events Friday at Lee University.”
In between on Thursday night, some of the pink legions will show up in a few more Cleveland yards, but after the “Paint the Town Pink” activities Friday in Lee’s Walker Arena they’ll be retired for another season. A year of rest, rehab and restoration will gear up the pink troops for the 2014 invasion, Muhonen explained.
“A lot of breast cancer survivors get flocked,” Muhonen acknowledged. “But it’s for everybody.”
In other words, the annual Flamingo Flock prides itself on being an equal opportunity assault.
The idea is volunteer flockers — whose costumes have evolved this year to new heights in pink — sneak into the yards of hosts under the veil of darkness, plant their two-legged gifts and leave them there through the next day when they are whisked away by the same volunteers and deployed to yet another yard.
“It’s fun to wake up to a yard full of pink flamingos,” Muhonen laughed. “Just whoever our donors want us to flock, we’ll flock.”
The cafeteria workers at Charleston Elementary School paid to have their school flocked ... just because.
Cleveland Pediatrics paid to have their own lawn flocked ... in support of an employee there who is a breast cancer survivor.
Even the Cleveland Daily Banner’s front lawn was flocked. Why? Could be the location. That’s what they say about success in business ... location, location, location.
“It’s funny to see all these pink flamingos in a yard ... and especially in high-visibility locations,” Muhonen smirked. Like ... say ... 25th Street?
Muhonen said she’s not sure who’s having more fun ... the homeowners who are being flocked or the volunteer flockers who are decorating the yards of strangers without fear of law enforcement reprisal.
“Our employees are having a great time with this,” Muhonen stressed. “They’re devoting a lot of time. Flocking is pretty hard work. On any given night, we have as many as 100 pink flamingos out in the community.”
She added, “We’ve also gotten some other volunteers involved ... like a Lee University sorority. We’ve got a team of flockers, for sure.”
Zandra Whaley Welch of the Plastic Surgery Clinic of Cleveland, who is a former kingpin ... er, queenpin ... of Flamingo Flocking during its first three years, remembers the exhausting nights but the rewarding laughs that followed each morning.
“Flocking volunteers have to put in some long hours after dark, but as the sun rises the following morning it’s all worth those late second and third shifts,” Welch laughed. “I’m happy our heir apparents (Doctors Express) to flocking are having a great time. I knew they would.”
Why the switch in the Flamingo Flock’s front office? It’s simple. Three years of flocking tires out the volunteers in any business or medical practice.
“It was time,” Welch said. “You can never get too much flocking, but after a few years you have to share the wealth.”
Those wishing to have someone else flocked may do so by calling Flocking Headquarters at 423-595-4607 or Doctors Express at 458-1426.
Inflation has had little effect. Even in a slow economy, flocking prices have remained the sweet deal of the pink day: Small Flock (10 flamingos), $25 donation; Medium Flock (20 flamingos), $35; Large Flocks (35 flamingos), $50; and Super-Size Flock (50 flamingos), $75.
Muhonen also recognized the kindness of one man who gave a little of his own heart for the good of VFAC pinkdom.
“Our volunteer flockers took a field trip to Lowe’s one night,” she explained. “We had lost a bunch of the flamingo legs (tiny steel rods) from the year before. So, we went to Lowe’s to buy more flamingo legs. The hardware manager cut the legs for us, and we were later to learn he actually paid for them himself.”
She added, “All we ever knew him as was ‘Mark, the Hardware Manager.’ He paid for 40 flamingo legs. We were just thrilled to death with ‘Mark, the Hardware Manager.’”
To no one’s surprise, the Flamingo Flockers were tickled pink by Mark’s gift.
In other VFAC tibits:
n In last week’s first-time grudge match between perennial softball powers, the pink-clad firefighters of the Cleveland Fire Department hosed a rival team of Cleveland doctors, 23-13. According to reports, no pinkies were injured during the playing, or the filming, of the game. All proceeds from the benefit went to Volley for a Cure.
n The annual Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon is set for Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in the Lee University Rec Center. Keynote speaker is Vonda Skelton, a popular author and Christian speaker. Reserved parking will be available at the Rec Center at the corner of Parker Street and Billy Graham Avenue, the Tennis Center and at the corner of 15th and Magnolia streets. Skelton’s appearance is being sponsored by Brenda Lawson, founder of Brenda Lawson & Associates LLC. Ticket price is $20. Tickets may be reserved by calling 423-614-8600. With reservations, breast cancer survivors will be given free admission.
n On Friday, the pink doins’ hit high gear in the Paul Dana Walker Arena. The evening kicks off at 5 p.m. with the Silent Auction; at 6 comes the traditional Pink Party highlighted by crazy hair, face painting, cotton candy, flamingos (yes, those same flockers) and more; at 6:45 will come the “Pack the Stands Pink” event, and at 7 the Lee University Lady Flames volleyballers will lend their special touch by taking on Valdosta State.
n Pink T-shirts bearing the VFAC 2013 theme, “Keep Calm and Volley for a Cure,” are still on sale for $5 and will continue to be sold as late as Friday’s volleyball finale.
n A MaryEllen Locher Foundation scholarship, using VFAC funds, will be awarded to a student between Games 2 and 3 of the volleyball match Friday night.
n This year’s Volley for a Cure sponsors and partners include Brenda Lawson & Associates, Pink Ribbon Bowl, Countryside Restaurant, Outland Travel Inc., MaryEllen Locher Foundation, The Plastic Surgery Clinic of Cleveland, Doctors Express, Express Athletics, East-West Media, Dick’s Graphics & Printing, the Cleveland Daily Banner, Gobble’s Automotive, SouthEast Bank & Trust, Zeta Chi Lambda, Lee Volleyball and WCLE Mix 104.1.
“When we first started Volley for a Cure, my dream was to make this a huge community event with full involvement,” said Andrea Hudson, VFAC founder and head coach of the Lee Lady Flames Volleyball team, and who doubles as Lee’s senior woman administrator and assistant athletic director.
She added, “I have grown up in Cleveland and I love this town. We have such kindhearted and loving people here who truly care about each other, and they give over and over again.”
Not only does Hudson see VFAC as a pink rage today, but as an ongoing part of Cleveland’s future fight against breast cancer.
“My hope is this will continue to stay on the hearts of our community as we honor these women who courageously battle breast cancer,” she stressed. “Our dream is to relieve their financial burden by allowing their children to attend college. Our past scholarship recipients have all continued in school and are graduating every year.”