The Pink Patch Project Helps Fight Breast Cancer, Raise Awareness

Public safety departments participating in the Pink Patch Project not only raise awareness and money to fight breast cancer, but also develop closer bonds with the communities they serve.

Pink Patch Project Breaks Barriers, Builds Relationships

For Foothill-DeAnza Community College District Police Department Chief Ron Levine, the decision for his Northern California campus police department to join the Pink Patch Project was a simple one. Looking for ways in which his agency could build stronger connections with the campus community, Levine embraced the program once he heard about it on social media. Soon his police officers, civilian employees and police student aides were all wearing pink versions of their department patches on their uniforms during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The results for Levine’s agency were impressive as officers, college staff and students all got behind the program and its ideals, showing strong support and appreciation for the program.

“Our pink patches were seen literally everywhere on our campuses,” he says. “Our officers were being stopped and asked about their pink patches.”

This, in turn, allowed the community to see a different, more human side of the police department and its officers.

Lasting relationships were something experienced by officers of the Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department (LASPD) as well after deploying its Pink Patch Project in 2016. With over 550 police officers, campus safety officers and support staff, LASPD is the largest independent school police department in the Untied States, serving a diverse and widespread student population in Los Angeles County.

The size and diversity of the police department helped bring the Pink Patch Project’s message to the school district’s 730,000 students and 60,000 employees. The presence of school police and campus safety officers wearing their pink patches on campuses broke down barriers with staff and students, says LASPD Officer Julie Spry.

“Everyone has a connection with this program,” she says. “We maintained these relationships long after the program ended.”

Similarly, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) Police Department found that its participation in the Pink Patch Project had a profound effect on the department’s relationship with the student population. Before the program, the relationship between the police department and students at the small applied and visual arts college in Boston was, at times, strained and distant.

When MassArt Police Department Sgt. Matthew Hurley learned about the Pink Patch Project on social media, he saw the program as a way to reach out and interact with staff and students on a personal level, regardless of their prior opinions of law enforcement or their past interactions with them. Once the program was introduced to the community, Hurley found that university staff and students rallied around the program.

“Now we have more personal relationships and interactions with our campus population,” he say
s.

Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too

When Sgt. Ed Headtke of the San Diego Community College District Police Department (Calif.) learned after a routine medical exam that he had follicular lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, he felt as if he had been sucker- punched. After a year of chemotherapy, weeks of radiation treatments and bone morrow transplants, Headtke left the hospital cancer-free. When Police Chief Raymund Aguirre wanted to bring the Pink Patch Project to his agency, Headtke was asked to take on the program, and he leapt at the opportunity. As a cancer survivor, Headtke says, “I knew we had to do it.”

View our photo gallery of departments in the Pink Patch Project!

While Headtke’s personal connection to the battle against cancer aided in his department’s commitment to attack breast cancer through the Pink Patch Project, Headtke found he was not alone in his connection to the disease.

“Everyone seems to have some connection to somebody who has breast cancer,” he says.

Participation in the Pink Patch Project allowed for University of Merced Police Department Officer Josie Haywood to wear her pink patches in honor of her mother, who she lost to breast cancer. For MassArt’s Hurley, it was a chance to pay respect to his mother-in-law and other close family members who had faced the disease as well.

Program Raises Funds to Find A Cure

While the public education component of the Pink Patch Project is enormously important, equally so is the role the program plays in supporting breast cancer research, education and treatment. By forging partnerships with cancer research organizations, participating agencies are able to raise funds for these organizations through the sale of pink patches and other Pink Patch Project related items such as t-shirts, stuffed animals, challenge coins, etc.

By their nature, campus-based public safety organizations are well situated to support Pink Patch Project fundraising efforts on their campuses, during campus functions, at sporting events, at student stores and venues, and in partnership with campus organizations.

MassArt’s Hurly found success for his department’s pink patch program through collaborations with employee and student- led organizations on campus. Hurley and his department partnered with residence life to bring the Pink Patch Project to their annual “Pink Salon” event. Mass- Art officers sold pink patches and gave informational material about breast cancer to students at the event, and interacted with staff and students in a casual and friendly environment. To add to the fun, some of the uniformed officers even had their hair dyed pink at the Pink Salon, all in the name of breast cancer awareness.

Socially conscious staff and students, memorabilia collectors and those impacted by cancer were among those who contributed to the success of the program in 2016, the combined efforts of which culminated in over $300,000 being raised and donated to various cancer hospitals and research organizations across the nation. The goal for 2017 is even greater, as the Pink Patch Project is hoping to raise an ambitious $500,000 this year.

How Your Department Can Participate

Each Pink Patch Project program is run locally and in a way that best fits the needs and comfort level of the participating agency. Agencies secure their own funding, obtain their own pink patches and market the program at a local level. Each agency also partners with a cancer research organization in their local area, or they can partner with a national cancer organization. As such, full control of how the program is managed is retained by the agency allowing them to best serve their particular campus or community.

The Pink Patch Project is a collaboration of all of these agencies in partnership with the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs’ Association and provides guidance, oversight, coordination and assistance to the partner agencies. Hospital, school or higher ed public safety and security agencies wishing to bring the program to their organization are encouraged to contact the Pink Patch Project at pinkpatchproject@gmail.com.

Information about the Pink Patch Project can also be found online at pinkpatchproject.com and by searching for the Pink Patch Project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Sergeant Rudy Gatto is with the Irwindale, Calif., Police Department.

Check out the photo gallery of public safety departments participating in the Pink Patch Project!

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