By Scott Linesburgh
The Stockton Record
STOCKTON, Calif. – For two days this weekend, the tough guys who play a fast-moving sport on a slick, frozen surface will once again go pink. At least the ice they play on, the jerseys they wear and many of the 17,000 fans expected for the two games will sport the color as the “Thunder Goes Pink” Friday and Saturday in support of breast cancer awareness.
The theme was the idea of Debra Bachle, a Stockton Thunder accounts executive whose mother twice has battled breast cancer.
As the mother of two daughters and the daughter of a survivor, Bachle’s goal is to bring attention to a “horrible disease.”
“I want to see a cure in my lifetime,” Bachle said. “I always say my mom is my inspiration and my daughters are my motivation.”
This is by far Bachle’s busiest time of the year. This week, her office was crammed with a bevy of pink items, including cheer cards, caps and shirts.
Just as crammed was Bachle’s schedule. “It’s so incredibly busy, because there are so many people who want to help out,” she said. “This event is to promote awareness, but it’s also for the survivors, like my mother.”
Her mom, Maxine Saunders of Aptos, was first diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago. She underwent a lumpectomy along with radiation and other treatment. The disease recurred two years later. She had a mastectomy and has not had any problems since.
Women most often are afflicted with breast cancer. However, in some cases, men are also stricken with the disease.
California Cancer Registry statistics show that in San Joaquin County in 2004, the most recent figures available, 385 people, all women, were diagnosed with breast cancer. That year, 78 county women died of breast cancer. That same year nationwide, a total of 188,587 people, including 1,815 men, were diagnosed with breast cancer. A total of 41,316 people, including 362 men, died from breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“I just want everyone to understand what a dangerous disease this can be,” Bachle said. “My mother was always very diligent about checkups, and early detection is what saved her life.”
Saunders, 72, welcomed her fifth great-grandchild last week and will be one of several survivors participating in ceremonies this weekend.
“It’s just amazing what Debra has done,” Saunders said. “I know it has a lot to do with me, but she helps so many people.”
Bachle grew up in the Stockton area and was working for a radio station in San Diego before she joined the Thunder. She said she was aware other cities and sports had held events dedicated to breast cancer awareness, but not Stockton.
“I spoke to the team about doing something, and they said to speak to some sponsors and see if we could get something going,” Bachle said. The response was great, “and the team said, ‘Let’s do a weekend event, and we’ll paint the ice pink.’ That kind of got the pink snowball rolling.”
Last year’s event raised $37,000 for charity. In addition to the donations from 17 sponsors, the Thunder will donate $1 from each ticket sold to the St. Joseph’s Foundation-Breast Cancer Services and the Stockton field office of the American Cancer Society. The importance of the events Friday and today goes beyond donations, according to Natalie Pettis of the St. Joseph’s Medical Center.
“When Debra first conceived this, I had no idea how successful it would be in getting the word out about early detection and regular checkups,” Pettis said. “That’s the key to saving lives. It’s a wonderful event.”
Bachle said she hopes pink stays with the Thunder for many years, and she hopes to be involved with it.
“Sometimes, all you need is one person with a passion for something to make it a success,” Pettis said.
Record staff writer Sara Cardine contributed to this story.