By Phil Stilton
TOMS RIVER—Seven years ago, Meridian Health wanted to raise awareness for the importance of annual mammograms for women over forty, so they decided to “Paint the Town Pink” in downtown Red Bank, which they called “Pink Bank” for nine days in the month May.
From its humble beginnings on Broad Street, the event has grown over the years to Monmouth Beach, Fair Haven, Atlantic Highlands, Rumson and Shrewsbury. This year, Meridian wants to paint downtown Toms River pink along with Brick, Jackson, Point Pleasant and several other Ocean County communities.
“The goal was to turn Red Bank into Pink Bank to raise awareness to the importance of annual mammography,” said Tria Deibert, of Meridian Health.
Deibert explained that Meridian Health studies had shown women over the age of 40 were not getting their mammograms when they should.
She explained the rate was 66% for women over 40, but just 37% among those who were uninsured or under insured and over 40. “Those are the women who fall through the cracks who may not qualify for assistance programs,” according to Deibert.
The goal of the “Paint the Town Pink” event is to raise awareness and encourage women over 40 to get their annual mammograms.
“We encouraged all of the businesses to pink themselves, the businesses would pink their windows and offer pink specials, there was no money coming back to us, it was tied to their business,” she said. “We put pink piggy banks in all of their businesses and we raised money over the years to provide mammography for uninsured or underinsured women.”
“We would want Toms River to become Pink River in May,” she told Mayor Tom Kelaher and the Toms River Township Council at the February 11th council meeting.
Jackson Township Mayor Mike Reina says he would embrace the event. Deibert said they hope to soon speak at a Jackson Township council meeting. Jackson Mayor Mike Reina said he couldn’t comment fully on the prospect since it has not yet come before the township but said, “This is a program I would fully support it here. It’s a great cause for a very important issue and it could be good for the town.” Each year, Reina fields a team at Six Flags Great Adventure’s “Walk in the Park” to raise money for cancer research.
Meridian will host an informational meeting on February 28th in Toms River. The event encourages businesses in town to do what they want and promote the event in creative ways.
In the past, towns have painted a pink line down the center of the street in downtown areas, flew pink flags and some businesses even went as far as painting the walls of their businesses pink.
School districts even got involved in the effort as Red Bank Regional High School painted their trademark cannons pink to “Sink Breast Cancer” in 2011.
This year, Diebert says they are going to host a “Pink Your House” and “Pink Your Ride” contest, to include Toms River.
“It’s a very important thing to promote and anything like this is worthwhile and whatever we can do here to help get this up and running in Toms River and make it a worthwhile program, we’re happy to do it,” Mayor Tom Kelaher told the Ocean Signal. “Anything that can make people aware of health problems, especially breast cancer is something that is a worthwhile project for us.”
In the past, Toms River has participated in the October breast cancer awareness events such as putting pink ribbons around trees and posts downtown, plus participating in events like Moser’s Miles.
As far as painting the pink stripes down the middle of Main Street or Washington Street as they do in other downtown areas that participate in the event, Kelaher said he that would be up to the county and the state as Main Street is managed by the state and Washington Street is a county road.
“Whatever we have to do to make this successful, we’re going to do it,” Kelaher added.
Paint the Town Pink was created with the goal to encourage women aged 40 and older to pledge to have their annual mammogram, as well as raise funds to provide mammography to the uninsured and underserved in our community. Through a variety of special events and in-store specials from hundreds of businesses, the “Pink Your House” contest, and involvement from community groups, this year’s Paint the Town Pink will be “bigger and Pinker” than ever before!
To sign up to Pink Your House visit www.PainttheTownPink.com and click on “Pink Your House.”
“Make it something that fits your town,” she said.
Photos Courtesy of “Paint the Town Pink”