Mark Schuegraf, Teacher: It was 10 years ago this month that Calgary Academy hosted our first Dig Pink volleyball tournament. The weather was not ideal, but eight teams braved the cold, snowy conditions to participate in the event. Hosting a ‘Dig Pink’ tournament was Tracy’s idea, and the phys ed department planned and organized the whole thing. My role in that first edition of Dig Pink was minimal – I refereed a few games. What immediately struck me about Dig Pink was the amazing spirit displayed by the young ladies on all the teams – there was something special, something intangible about that spirit. In the midst of one of the Saturday morning games, the lights went off in the gyms. While you might think it caused mass chaos, we actually had teams requesting to keep playing – maybe we had a glow in the dark ball somewhere? We lost power to the whole school and were eventually forced to cancel the remainder of the tournament. Despite that, every single team refused any portion of their registration fee to be refunded (we had offered), and asked to come back again next year.
Who knew that this humble beginning would eventually grow into what has become the marquee event for Calgary Academy athletics, and one of the most popular volleyball tournaments in Alberta. We now regularly host 24 teams from across Alberta and BC, and have had teams enter from as far away as the Yukon. Every year, hundreds of high school girls and their coaches and parents descend on CA in varying degrees of pink garb, often home made, and they fully embrace the spirit of Dig Pink. The atmosphere around CA has been getting better every year, and other schools are starting to pick up on it – especially ones that have been here for a number of years. We even had schools do their own bake sales to donate funds to Dig Pink. Over the years we have seen pink shirts, pink hoodies, pink socks, and even pink hair. I was blown away by an entire gym full of pink at the pep rally last year, and I hope we can continue that momentum this year and beyond.
In planning the 10th anniversary edition of Dig Pink and how to make it stand out, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what makes it so special, and I’ve had a few ideas. Dig Pink is different – we donate 100% of all entry fees to the Alberta Cancer Society – that’s amazing… but what is even more amazing about it is how and why we are able to do that. Since its inception, Dig Pink has relied on volunteers to run all aspects of the tournament. Organizing, refereeing, scorekeeping, photography, set up, clean up, and maintaining the building. All of it done with no thought of ‘what’s in it for me’ but instead ‘how can I help’. A team of dedicated volunteers has made this tournament possible each and every one of the last 10 years. Staff volunteers plan, organize, and run the tournament. Parent volunteers bake, provide food, help run fundraisers, and have taken on increasingly large roles in making this tournament a success. Community volunteers and businesses donate goods and services each year to help Dig Pink be cost free. And students (and alumni) volunteer for refereeing, scorekeeping, photography, and other vitally important jobs. We have had numerous students cut their hair or shave their heads in support of the cause over the years, and emotions tend to run extremely high in these moments. The feeling of being a community united behind a great cause is what keeps Dig Pink going. So many people have contributed to the success of this event over the years, that I couldn’t mention half of them if I tried – but those people are integral to the success of Dig Pink, and we’d never have made it here without them. This year, we have set a lofty goal of raising over $10,000 for our tenth anniversary. While it will not be easy, I think it can be achieved with the help of the entire Calgary Academy community.
What drew me in to Dig Pink in the first place was the amazing attitude, the positive energy, and the spirit of the girls, their coaches, and the many volunteers that take part. We have had many successes in the 10 years of Dig Pink, including our senior girls winning the whole tournament in 2014. But what has really stuck with me over the years are the inspirational stories from staff, students, and parents about how breast cancer has touched their lives. I know that it has impacted many people, as well as their families and friends in ways that I cannot fathom, and I’m not naïve enough to think it won’t someday affect my life in a significant way. These stories, these people – my students, their parents, my colleagues and people I am proud to call friends – they are the drive to keep Dig Pink going, to make it better and more successful over the years, and why we continue to ask the question… Who are YOU playing for?