The University Police Department at FGCU hopes the campus community will help “put the cuffs on cancer” this month by participating in the nationwide Pink Patch Project.
For a $10 suggested donation, contributors will receive the same pink patch that UPD officers are wearing throughout October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The pink-trimmed, shield-shaped emblem features Azul the Eagle sporting an “arresting,” shall we say, pink sports top and giving the Wings Up sign, with “Eagles for the Cure” in the background. Donations can be made and patches picked up through the end of the month at the UPD headquarters in the Campus Support Complex.
Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Kelli Smith, who joined FGCU last May, is evaluating the best cancer research organization to receive the proceeds. The cause is personal for her. Her mother is a survivor of breast cancer, she lost one sister to the disease and another is currently fighting it.
“My sister passed away at 58 after two bouts of breast cancer,” Smith said. “The first was at 28. At the time they thought that young women could not get breast cancer, and some doctors were dismissive at first.”
Eventually, her sister got treatment and went into remission, but the cancer recurred when she was 55, Smith said.
Her family’s experience underscores the importance of promoting awareness and funding more research to understand and treat the disease. One in eight women in the United States develops breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and on average one is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes.
“Many, many people are touched by this unfortunate disease,” said Sgt. Myles Kittleson, who oversees community outreach and prevention within UPD. “I believe it’s something we all should get involved in and help any way we can.”
FGCU Athletics is on board with the effort, and UPD will be promoting the Pink Patch Project at some sports events. The FGCU Foundation pitched in to pay for production of 700 patches.
“I’m super excited — the support has just been completely breathtaking,” said Smith, who led participation in the project at her previous post at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. “It really has been touching to see how everyone has rallied around this project.”
At NAU, the pink patches sold out and turned into collectibles, with new designs introduced each year, the chief says. She hopes it will receive a similarly warm Wings Up welcome at FGCU and continue year after year.
Although this is the first time UPD has participated, the Pink Patch Project originated in 2013 when the Seal Beach Police Department in southern California started wearing pink patches for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, according to the project’s website. Within a couple of years, more agencies across California embraced the campaign and it spread across the country. Today, several hundred police, fire, EMS and other agencies around the world participate each October.
For more information about UPD’s Pink Patch Project, call Kittleson at 239-745-4531.