Construction crew builds breast cancer awareness


More than 440 people, from construction workers to breast cancer survivors, formed a pink ribbon Tuesday at the new Bayhealth Sussex campus near Milford to raise awareness for breast cancer screenings. Workers from EMCOR/Poole and Kent Corp., Bayhealth and The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. participated as part of EMCOR’s 9th annual “Protect Yourself. Get Screened Today” national campaign. (Special to Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

MILFORD — About 425 construction workers, from carpenters to iron workers, put down their tools Tuesday morning and gathered outside the multi-story hospital they are building to don pink T-shirts and hard hats to raise awareness for breast cancer screenings.

The pause in work is critical to raise awareness about early detection, said Adam Snavely, president and CEO of Poole and Kent Corp.

He told the crowd how five minutes after he got out of the car at Bayhealth’s new Sussex Campus, he felt the campaign’s impact.

“We met Joe, a sheet metal worker. He had a hard time speaking. He was talking about his sister who he buried, who he lost three years ago. This touches everybody,” Mr. Snavely said.

Poole and Kent Corp. promotes breast cancer awareness and screenings at its work sites nationally in October. It creates three “human pink hard hat ribbons” across the country; this was the first in Delaware in the company’s ninth annual campaign, which urges people to “Protect Yourself. Get Screened Today.”

Mr. Snavely said disrupting construction for a couple hours Tuesday was worth it to promote the need for early detection brought with breast cancer screenings.

Breast cancer survivors, from left, Kelly Shelton of Dover, Christy Ford of Milford and Gloria Minus of Felton, gather after helping to form a human pink ribbon Tuesday at Bayhealth’s new Sussex Campus under construction near Milford. (Delaware State News/Ashley Dawson)

Laurie Yori Riha, a two-time breast cancer survivor and an assistant project manager with Poole and Kent Corp., told the crowd that the pink hard hats aren’t just a safety helmet.

“Wear them proudly as a symbol of the women in your lives that you love them,” she said. “It’s about raising awareness of how beneficial screenings can be to a positive outcome,” she said.

Bayhealth Senior Vice President and COO Deborah Watson talked about the modern amenities that will be offered at the hospital’s new Sussex Campus, which is rising on Cedar Creek Road and slated to open in 2019. The cancer center there will offer private rooms with views of a healing garden and areas that offer privacy for those who want it, but the ability to slide open windows for those seeking to chat with others during treatment. Families will have space to be with patients.

In the meantime, Bayhealth continues to offer screening programs for men and women and will offer free mammograms in October to those who lack insurance or who are underinsured. (For information and to schedule an appointment, call Harriet Pinkston at 744-6719.)

Among the sea of mostly men in hard hats, work boots, sunglasses and pink T-shirts were survivors of breast cancer who have used Bayhealth’s treatment services and who appreciated the showing of support for breast cancer awareness and early detection.

“It’s the power of pink,” said Kelly Shelton of Dover.

Gloria Minus of Felton said, “It makes me feel good that breast cancer is being recognized more so than when we were diagnosed.”

She was referring to her diagnosis in 2004, and her friends. Ms. Shelton was diagnosed in 1999 and Christy Ford in 2000.

The trio said since that time they’ve amassed a lot of pink clothing items and they will wear them frequently in October.

In addition to raising awareness about breast cancer, they said their pink clothing, sparkly ribbon-shaped earrings and pink pins encourage people to approach them and talk about cancer.

Tuesday’s event was special, Ms. Ford said. “Especially seeing men wear it, it’s amazing.”

Sonia Addison, of Dover, a master sergeant in the Air Force, discovered a lump and learned she had breast cancer on April 16, 2016, five days after she turned 41.

Now, “I am cancer free,” she said, showing off the word “survivor” tattooed in pink on the inside of her left forearm.

On the shoulder of that same arm is a female soldier hoisting a pink ribbon framed by the words “Never a Victim, Forever a Fighter.”

“That’s dedicated to my troops and the 512th Airlift Wing,” she said, because of the support they gave her during her treatment, bringing groceries, raising money and just stopping by her house when she was sick.

Seeing the crowd gathered in bright pink Tuesday reminded her of the support she had received.

“It means a lot,” she said. “And now I’m a supporter.”


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