HIBBING — Three years ago, Hibbing High School assistant volleyball coach Joyce Wirtanen has reached out to the community to help her support an important cause — breast cancer.

Last year, the Bluejackets donated around $650 to help support the local breast cancer fund at the hospital.

This year, Wirtanen is hoping to surpass that total when Hibbing hosts Grand Rapids today in a 7 P.m. Breast Cancer Awareness high school volleyball contest at the Lincoln Elementary School Gymnasium.

According to Wirtanen, they try to have a bigger fund raiser every other year, so this is the year to go all out to support a worthy cause in the community.

“This year, we’ve solicited more donations from the community,” Wirtanen said. “I’m hoping we’ll have an even larger amount to donate to breast cancer. We’re raising it locally. It’s the community giving us the donations.

“We keep it local to try and have an impact on a number of people in the community. We’re trying to promote awareness to breast cancer that’s out there and could affect kids in the future, kids now or parents and grandparents.”

The Bluejacket girls will show their support by wearing pink ribbons, pink stocking and pink warmup shirts.

“We’d like to do more pink, but the state high school league prevents us from doing more,” Wirtanen said.

Wirtanen herself has known people who have been affected by breast cancer.

“There’s been numerous people in the community and out at the different mining companies that I work with, breast cancer has touched their families in a number of different ways,” Wirtanen said.

“I think it’s important to bring that awareness to the forefront and to get women tested as early as possible to promote early detection.”

According to Wirtanen, the team gets involved by wearing the pink attire, then they ask the girls to promote the game — who it’s against and where it’s at.

They post those signs at the Lincoln Elementary School, the high school and at businesses in the community.

“We want to get more involvement,” Wirtanen said.

All spectators should wear pink to the game. If so, Whoever is wearing pink will be put in a raffle for a drawing featuring 10 or 15 different items throughout the course of the night.

Donations will be accepted and in lieu of doing split the pot, spectators will be asked to purchase tickets for 40 different prizes available to win.

“They can win anything from oil changes to gift certificates at restaurants, to baskets of health care items,” Wirtanen said. “There’s a whole gamut of things. We also have three very nice custom made fire pits that are being donated by one of the companies.

“If people come to the game today, the tickets are $1 each. An individual who purchases 10 tickets will get an 11th one for free.

All of that money will headed for the local breast cancer foundation.

Wirtanen can’t thank the community enough for the help they’ve given the team in this endeavor.

“We haven’t been rejected at all,” Wirtanen said. “Our board members went out and asked for two to three donations from various businesses and the community has been very, very supportive.

“We’d like to extend our thank you to those businesse that donated to this worthy cause.”

The visiting teams have also been supportive as well. This is the second time the Thunderhawks have been involved in this game.

“One of their team members will have their name drawn for a free quilt,” Wirtanen said. “Angela, Dory and Terry Johnson is making quilts for the Hibbing and Grand Rapids teams. They are aware of that as well.

“We want people to show up and wear pink. We want people to support the cause and volleyball on top of it.”

Gary Giombetti can be reached at ggiombetti@hibbingdailytribune.net.

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