HUNTINGTON — A cancer diagnosis never strikes at a good time — but for college students, it can spell out an overwhelming concurrence of two of the most difficult journeys of their lives.
However, for seven years now, Mountwest Community and Technical College worked to lighten the load for its students affected by cancer, while honoring the legacy of a longtime employee and her daughter.
Hosted in the thick of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the college kicked off its annual four-day Pink Out event Monday morning with a remembrance walk around campus, and broke ground on a new tulip bed, set to sprout in spring, memorializing loved ones lost to cancer.
The Pink Out honors the late Karen Johnson, a Mountwest employee of 27 years, who succumbed to cancer in October 2011. Her daughter, Jennifer Johnson Polo, also died of cancer the following year.
The four-day event on campus includes daily benefit lunches, bake sales, activities like “bra pong” — in which ping-pong balls are tossed into different bras for points — and raffles on Thursday.
“This is an opportunity for us to all really fellowship with each other for a week,” said Janet Smith, MCTC professor of Allied Health, who helped organize the event.
All the moving parts benefit the Karen S. Johnson Memorial Scholarship Fund, which is a $1,000 scholarship awarded to a student who has had or currently has cancer. At least one MCTC student is granted the scholarship each year, which can go toward tuition, books or even living expenses, Smith said.
Pink Out activities last through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the school’s main atrium. Raffles will be drawn at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Tax deductible donations to the scholarship fund also can be made by checks payable to the Mountwest Foundation, One Mountwest Way, Huntington, West Virginia 25701 with “Karen S. Johnson Scholarship Fund” in the memo line.
Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.