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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Marquette played annual ‘PanCan’ game to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer

Marquette players wore a purple ribbon around their hair during the ‘PanCan’ game. (Photo courtesy of Kylie Bridenhagen.)

Valley Fields during Marquette women’s lacrosse’s game against Georgetown April 13 was a sea of purple.

The players wore a purple ribbon around their hair or on their shoelaces and fans in the stands repped purple bands, bags, water bottles and pins.

This color coordination wasn’t to support a team — it was to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer.

The women’s lacrosse program has partnered with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to play an awareness game every year since head coach Meredith Black founded the team in 2011.

Only two months before Black created the team, her friend’s mom had passed away from pancreatic cancer.

“I had never heard of it until my friend’s mom had it,” Black said. “When she told me, her mom was young and healthy and I thought ‘No, she’ll be fine. We’ll fight this.’ Then a week later, I learned it was a really like aggressive type. Still, I thought she was going to be fine because she’s perfectly healthy.

“It gets people quickly who are diagnosed with it because unfortunately it’s often not caught until very late.”

The team organizes activities such as raffles and tabling sessions in the weeks leading up to the game, but fifth-year attacker Hannah Greving said their purpose is more than just raising money.

“Being able to spread awareness about it is the biggest focus and why we do it as a team,” Greving said. “If we happen to be raising money, that’s great, but the main thing is having people be aware of it and know about it because the prognosis of the disease is not that great.”

This year, the sophomores were in charge of setting up the informational table and spending their time telling people about their efforts. Goalie Ava Sprinkel was the one in her class to make QR codes for the table and message her teammates to remind them to volunteer.

“I wanted to make a difference because the team always talks about leaving a legacy here and how you can be a leader,” Sprinkel said. “I really wanted to take initiative and I wanted to focus my efforts on this because it’s such a good cause and I know it’s such a painful thing for other people to go through.”

During the week of the PanCan game, Black had contacted Pancreatic Cancer Action Network representative Sally Severson to come and speak to the players. Severson talked about how her family had been stricken by pancreatic cancer multiple times, which Black said made what she communicated so much more impactful.

“The girls were so invested in what she was saying and I’m so glad we did that. We’re going to do that every year because it really helps them,” Black said. “No one ever questions donating to cancer research or playing for cancer, but when you actually know more and can talk to people that are doing this and living through it, you think ‘Wow, it makes it so much more personal.'”

Instead of focusing its efforts on awareness-building around one game a year, it’s become a season-long endeavor for the Golden Eagles.

“It is really great that we have this platform and that we can share it and spread awareness,” Greving said. “It’s great because we use it to spread information when we can, and the more that we can start the conversation and keep those conversations going, the more people have it present in their mind.”

Sprinkel said the entire team is on board because it’s become so personal.

“It’s something that you really buy into,” Sprinkel said. “The whole idea is such an amazing cause that you want to feel a part of it and you want to help support in any way possible. It’s become so close to our team whether you know someone [that’s gone through it] or not.”

The former is something that both Sprinkel and Greving said was close to home. For Sprinkel, it was a friend’s family member and for Greving, it was a family friend and her boyfriend’s father.

The team honored these people and kept them in remembrance when they went to the Purple Light Vigil put on by PanCan. At this event, names were read and when it was someone you knew, you would snap a purple glowstick to ignite it.

The room was completely lit up by the purple glow, signifying the memories of those that had lost their fight to pancreatic cancer.

Black said that with the team’s help and the work of PanCan, the fight against the disease is one that won’t stop anytime soon.

“As long as I’m here,” Black said, “we’ll continue to raise awareness and do the PanCan game every year.”

This story was written by Ben Hanson. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X @benhansonMU.

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About the Contributor
Benjamin Hanson
Benjamin Hanson, Sports Reporter
Ben Hanson is a sophomore from Minneapolis, Minnesota studying journalism, digital media and advertising. He is a sports reporter and the assistant social media producer for the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. When he's not in the newsroom, he likes creative writing, being with friends and going to sporting events. He is excited to be able to spread the word of the Marquette Wire because it has done so much for him while also refining his sports writing.

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