By Eliot Schickler

The Staples football team's 31-12 win over Danbury Saturday wasn't its most significant victory of the day.

Staples definitely played well and looked like a team to be reckoned with, but what it did off the gridiron along with the rest of the community will yield long-term benefits that will help many people in need.

With October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Wreckers hosted their second annual Pink Out game in which everyone who was at the stadium was encouraged to wear pink. The team started the "Get Your Pink On" campaign last year because it wanted to raise breast cancer awareness and it was determined to build on what it started.

In the weeks leading up to the game, the players, who wore pink shoelaces and pink gloves on game day, sold t-shirts, hats, gloves and rally towels in the cafeteria during lunch periods. Their parents sold the aforementioned merchandise at the game and the cheerleaders, who wore pink t-shirts during the game as well, raised money through a bake sale during the game with their moms selling the delectable goods.

"I think it was incredibly successful and I think it was well-received," said Tammy Zelkowitz, mother of Staples football player Joey Zelkowitz who coordinated the event for the second straight year. "The fundamental concept of breast cancer awareness is out there. For the most part, people have been touched in some way by breast cancer, which helped it [The Pink Out] be successful."

Overall, $6,100 was raised, which eclipsed last year's total of $4,200. The money raised will go to Pink Aid, a local non-profit organization. Pink Aid provides support, which entails funds for mammograms and other necessary services for women with breast cancer.

"What I like about it [Pink Aid receiving the donation] is that it helps local women in our community who are either uninsured or underinsured, for necessary funds and services," Zelkowitz said.

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The idea was born as so many national football teams promote and support breast cancer awareness.

"We knew it could be done at a community level involving Staples students and fans to help women in need in our community," Zelkowitz said. "As these young men approach adulthood, it's great that they have taken on this cause and have become aware of this disease that could possibly affect and impact them personally someday. The boys really liked it and they were terrific."

Zelkowitz received helped from Julie Loparo and Kara Yass.

"I'm lucky to have the support from the coaches, [Staples Principal] Mr. [John] Dodig, [grade level assistant] Dee Hychko and [athletic director] Marty Lisevick, which helped make it a success," Zelkowitz said. "Overall, it was a team effort and we pulled it all together. We got our message out about breast cancer awareness and gave back to the community."

The football and cheerleading teams aren't the only Staples fall squads that did their part in the battle against cancer. Girls soccer, field hockey, volleyball and swimming helped raise awareness and funds as well.

Eradicating breast cancer is important but we need to raise awareness and funds to eliminate all forms of cancer.

McDougall touched lives at Staples

While on the theme of fighting cancer, retired Trumbull athletic director Jerry McDougall, who coached Trumbull's football and baseball teams, died Oct. 12 after his battle with leukemia. He was 76.

Although McDougall coached the Eagles, he touched many lives in Westport, especially Staples football coach Marce Petroccio. Petroccio, a Trumbull alumnus, played football for McDougall and was a pallbearer at his funeral.

McDougall was the keynote speaker of the 2000 football banquet.

"I've never met a man who exemplifies the words honesty, integrity and courage the way Coach does," Petroccio said in an interview with Hearst writer Sean Patrick Bowley. "Coach exemplifies the word class, and all of us who play this great game should honor him by striving to perpetuate his standard of excellence, both on and off the field."

I also had the privilege of working with McDougall when I covered his 1999 baseball team while working for the Trumbull Times. He was a class act on and off the field.

Rest in peace, Coach McDougall, and let's cure leukemia and all forms of cancer.