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Mitchell's Pink the Rink soldiers on through COVID-19, raising cancer awareness

The fourth annual Pink the Rink was held Saturday at the Mitchell Activities Center.

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The Mitchell Marlins girls hockey team huddles up before facing off against their opponent on Saturday afternoon at the Mitchell Activities Center for the fifth annual Pink the Rink. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

One by one, Mitchell Marlins hockey players funneled out of their locker room on Saturday donning bright pink socks and jerseys to face off against their opponent.

It signaled the beginning of the fourth annual Pink the Rink, an event by the Mitchell Marlins Hockey Association to raise cancer awareness. Not only were Mitchell’s hockey players speckled in pink uniforms, the sheet of ice inside the rink was colored bright pink.

Over the years, Pink the Rink has become a popular community event that attracts big crowds, but there is a team of volunteers who go the extra mile to make it happen. Sonya Puetz, committee member with the Mitchell Hockey Association, is one of the volunteers who does a lot of the leg work to organize the special event at the Mitchell Activities Association.

“The kids really love being a part of this, and being able to skate and play on the pink ice is a memorable experience,” said Puetz, whose son plays hockey for the Mitchell Marlins. “This event is really great, because the kids get to see how cancer affects so many, but they can also see how they can give back to the cause.”

While COVID-19 was an additional hurdle this year, Puetz said the hockey association found an interesting way to make the raffle happen. The raffle was available online this year, which included baskets made with local products and gift cards.

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Proceeds from the full day of hockey games go to Mitchell’s Heart and Sole, an organization dedicated to supporting those fighting cancer. Jessica Skinner, Heart and Sole Committee vice chairwoman, said Pink the Rink typically raises around $5,000 to $8,000 for the organization each year.

“It means a great deal to us that the hockey association does this every year, and it shows how much they care about their community and giving back to those fighting cancer,” Skinner said.

With the challenges of holding fundraising events in the midst of the pandemic, Skinner said it was a blessing for the Pink the Rink to be held over the weekend.

“It was more difficult to fundraise the past year with COVID-19 going on, but we were fair pretty well. But this Pink the Rink event was definitely a blessing and will be a big help to the organization,” Skinner said.

As someone who lost an uncle to cancer, Skinner said one of her favorite parts of Pink the Rink is the unique format of the luminaries, which are traditionally made up of a small bag with a candle inside to honor late loved ones.

For the Mitchell Marlins luminaries, each player picks a person who has either battled or lost their fight against cancer, and their name is announced after the player is introduced during lineups.

Puetz said the luminaries are a special part of the event that helps commemorate all of those who have experienced cancer in some form.

“The older players are really proud about who they are skating and playing for. It’s great to see how much it means to them,” Puetz said. “About everyone has known someone who has dealt with cancer, and this helps honor them in a special way.”

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Related Topics: HOCKEY
Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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