First-time survivors honored at Lowell Pink Arrow game

Kent County

LOWELL, Mich. (WOOD) — The community rallied behind the Pink Arrow Pride game at Lowell High School Thursday night for the 14th year.

Slightly scaled back due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, some traditions were tweaked while others went on strong.

Players and fans honored someone who’s been diagnosed with cancer by wearing their name on the back of their shirt or jersey.

Among the survivors honored was Denise Washburn, or Mrs. Washburn to her students.

The longtime first grade teacher was diagnosed in February, cutting the school year short to begin treatment.

“I did have to give up my classroom, which was challenging. And I fought through the spring until June and then come July, I got my scan done and they said they see no cancer, so you’re in remission.”

Always a supporter of Pink Arrow Pride, this was Washburn’s first year showing up as a survivor.

“I’ve always been really thankful that I live in a community that has Pink Arrow, but being affected by it changes your perspective a lot,” she said. “I already have teared up, so it has been an emotional day — kids with your name on their back, my son with ‘Mom’ on the back.”

Denise Washburn stands next to her son at the annual Pink Arrow Pride game at Lowell High School on Aug. 26, 2021.

Bumping into former students before kickoff, one little girl came out in honor of her teacher.

“One of my former first-grade students, she’s in second grade this year and her mom sent me a picture with my name on her back,” Washburn said.

There were some cancer fighters that had to sit this year out, concerned about catching COVID-19.

One of the organizers, Perry Beachum, said masks were encouraged but not required.

“Whether you believe it in or not, I just think it’s the respectful thing to do for those who are trying to attend and are on that cancer journey,” Beachum said.

Recently diagnosed with cancer, James Phillips watched from a distance.

Phillips said he too has been a longtime supporter of Pink Arrow Pride, but this year it’s personal.

“I never thought I’d go through it, but here I am, definitely in it,” he said.

Phillips watched from a distance, wearing a mask and staying away from crowds.

“I wanted to come out here just to support it,” he said. “I’ve always been a big Red Arrow fan. I played football here, so it’s all come around now.”

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