By Mary Heyl

During the month of October, the colors black and orange seem to be everywhere, from porch decorations to storefronts. But drive down any given street at night, and you’ll see several houses with pink porch lightbulbs, signaling that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! It’s easy to get involved in the cure by taking part in different local fundraisers coming up in October.

Just about everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer diagnosis, whether it’s a family member, friend, colleague, or even oneself. According to recent research cited by, about 1 in 8 women in the U.S. (about 12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women, and the American Cancer Society estimates that almost 2,470 American men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2017.

While these statistics are alarming, awareness and research about breast cancer have increased exponentially in recent decades. In 1985, the American Cancer Society designated October as the month to raise awareness for the signs of breast cancer, promote best practices for prevention, and create fundraisers to support breast cancer research. Now, more than 30 years later, communities across the country are banding together in creative ways to raise awareness and money for a cause that is very near and dear to so many.

One of these creative fundraisers is the Pink Pumpkin Project, founded in 2012 by Lynn Anzivine, whose sister-in-law, Laurie Ogle, passed away in 2007 from breast cancer. It all started with one pumpkin that Anzivine and her family painted pink in honor of Laurie; Anzivine’s son suggested that they make and sell several pink pumpkins and donate 100 percent of the proceeds to a local friend undergoing breast cancer treatments. That year, Anzivine’s family sold 25 pumpkins; this number grew to 125 in 2013, and again in 2014, when the pumpkin sales increased to 500 pumpkins.

Since 2012, the Pink Pumpkin Project has assisted over 65 women in the Allegany/Olean area by raising over $50,000! Recipients received a monetary donation to assist with the costs of treatment, as well as gift baskets filled with thoughtful gifts made by local residents.

For just $12.50, you can purchase a beautifully decorated pumpkin online at Pumpkins will be available for pick up at 862 E. State Street in Olean on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 11 and 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14 and 15 from noon to 3 p.m. For photos and updates, follow The Pink Pumpkin Project on Facebook.

Enjoy the beautiful fall weather and support breast cancer research by participating in the 9th Annual Angel of Hope Breast Cancer Awareness 5K Walk/Run this Saturday, Oct. 7 in Portville. The race begins at 24 South Main Street in Portville at 10 a.m. The race fee is $20 for participants over the age of 19 and $10 for participants ages 19 and younger, plus a $2.50 sign-up fee for all ages. Can’t participate in the 5K? You can still support the Angel of Hope Run by donating online at Awareness5kWalkRun. Funds support the Cancer Services Programs of Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties. For more information, contact Jeanette Ratzel at (585)307-7563.

When diagnosed early, breast cancer survival rates are quite high (90 percent, according to the American Cancer Society) compared to diagnoses at the advanced stages of the disease. Early detection is key, and the Cattaraugus County Health Department encourages all women over the age of 40 to have an annual mammogram, and younger than age 40 if there is a family history of breast cancer.

Through a grant received by the Cattaraugus County Health Department from the New York State Department of health, breast cancer prevention services are available and provided at little or no cost for women over the age of 40 who are uninsured, under-insured, or unable to access a medical provider. Screenings are available at more than 10 locations throughout the county including the county health department in Little Valley and Olean General Hospital. For more information, visit or call 1-800-251-2584.