Local men harness the power of pink to eradicate breast cancer

Why would men – real men – wear pink? One reason may be in honor or memory of a loved one. This month 29 leaders in the community are wearing pink to help raise awareness about breast cancer – and other cancers – and to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Here’s a look at seven local men who are “putting on the pink” to support the cause or honor special people in their lives. They have also pledged to raise at least $2,500 for ACS.

Jake Gordon

Jake Gordon

It’s worth it

Although San Marco resident Jake Gordon doesn’t have cancer in his family, he does worry about the women in his life.

“I have a young daughter, a sister and a mother. They are all healthy now, but we need to find a cure so they never have to worry about this awful disease. Plus, men can get breast cancer too – so I don’t want to worry, either!” said Gordon.

CEO of Downtown Vision, Inc., Gordon said he doesn’t subscribe to the outdated notions of colors reflecting gender norms. “I have absolutely no problem wearing pink! So to wear pink in support of a great charity like the American Cancer Society is wonderful,” he said. “Everyone should be free to be themselves and express themselves in a positive way making positive change in the world.”

According to the CDC, each year in the US, more than 200,000 women get breast cancer and more than 40,000 women die from the disease.

“I feel an obligation to help the effort for cancer research, especially breast cancer, which is very common,” said Gordon. “If I can help the effort, and we can save even one life, isn’t that worth it?”

The Making Strides for Jacksonville 5K will be held downtown on Saturday, Oct. 22. Last year, more than 10,000 walkers in the event raised $317,000.

Brian Bush

Brian Bush

Doing it for grandma

“My grandmother was a breast cancer survivor who wanted to do her part to help other women detect, cope with and survive the disease,” said Brian Bush, eCommerce manager at the family business, Tom Bush Family of Dealerships. “Her commitment to educate and support her extended dealership family continues today.”

The Tom Bush Family of Dealerships participates in the Making Strides Walk every year and wears pink shirts every Thursday in October to continue its awareness campaign.

Bush, of Riverside, plans to fundraise via social media, an open bar night at Suite, and to make a donation for every car sold during the campaign. “Also, I will be driving around in the all-new VW #PinkBeetle during my fundraising campaign,” he said.

“I am excited to bring more awareness to the fight against breast cancer around the First Coast. I think having established men from the community get behind the movement is an excellent way to get others to do the same,” said Bush.

Pete Behringer

Pete Behringer

The grandmother he never knew

Everyone knows Sweet Pete Behringer. What they don’t know is he never got to know his grandmother, who died from breast cancer when Behringer’s mother was a little girl.

“I am most excited about making a difference,” said Behringer, founder of Sweet Pete’s, the largest candy store in the Southeast. “I was shocked to learn that one in eight women will develop breast cancer.”

Born in Dayton, Ohio, Behringer moved to Jacksonville at age 10 and grew up in San Marco. Married 15 years to a Jacksonville native, Behringer lives in Springfield with his wife Allison, son Daniell, and greyhound, Trolley Song.

Behringer said he’s always had a passion for chocolate and candy, and now he can add “fighting breast cancer” to that list.

Jim Love

Jim Love

For the love of his life

With nearly 300 aircraft carrier landings under his belt, there’s probably nothing that scares former Corsair attack jet pilot Jim Love more than hearing those dreaded words, “Your wife has cancer.”

Just months after the retired Navy Captain started his campaign in 2010 for the District 14 City Council seat, Love’s wife, Robin, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“This was a very scary time considering that her mother had had colon cancer,” said Love, of Avondale.

The same inner strength Robin Love drew on as a military wife undoubtedly helped her during the battle against cancer. “She was very brave about this situation and attended the radiation treatments while allowing me to continue my political campaign,” said Love.

In fact, during the weeks of radiation treatment she continued to help in the campaign from sign waving to asking for petition signatures, he said.

“Without her amazing help I would never have won the extremely close election and, fortunately, her cancer has remained in remission,” said Love, “so I am excited about helping the American Cancer Society come closer to curing cancer, especially breast cancer.”

Alan Verlander

Alan Verlander

In the trenches with cancer

With a wife and four daughters, there was always the worry in the back of Alan Verlander’s mind that one of his loved ones would someday join the more than 240,000 women who are diagnosed each year with breast cancer. “Someday” struck the Verlander family six years ago.

“In 2010, our family received news that my wife was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer,” said Verlander, of Miramar. “Over the many appointments and surgeries, we have seen firsthand the importance of a support system around you at these critical times in life.”

Verlander understands support systems from a community perspective, too. He volunteers his time with various organizations, currently serving on the boards of Rethreaded, Fellowship of Christian Athletes Baseball, Boy Scouts Scoutreach and Samford Uni-versity’s Sports Marketing Program.

Still, Verlander is finding time to wear pink and raise funds for the fight against breast cancer.

“I’m excited to show my support for those people who have either gone through or are going through cancer as we speak,” said Verlander, Jacksonville Sports Council executive director/COO. “Additionally, I look forward to educating those in our city about my personal journey and the importance of being proactive about your health.”

Tony Caribaltes

Tony Caribaltes

Helping a cause he believes in

Tony Caribaltes doesn’t have a pink thing in his closet to wear during the Real Men Wear Pink Challenge. He solved that problem by challenging clients and friends to bring him something pink to wear.

“I am always up for helping a cause I believe in, and this sounded like a fun and easy to help make a difference,” said Caribaltes, a licensed realtor at Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty.

On a more somber note, Caribaltes’ connection to breast cancer is extremely close.

“My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after my father had passed away. She had always been healthy except for her diminishing mental capabilities, so this was unchartered territory,” said Caribaltes. “She had a mastectomy, chemo and radiation, but she survived the breast cancer. The unfortunate side effect was the chemo accelerated her diminishing mental capabilities and she passed away a few years later from complications with Alzheimer’s.”

Caribaltes has a multi-pronged approach utilizing the Coldwell Banker Vanguard storefront in the Shoppes of Avondale, including a kissing board and Tony’s “Tata Tip of the Week.”

Seth Pajcic

Seth Pajcic

Real fighters wear pink

Ever the athlete, Seth Pajcic is unleashing his competitive nature in the fight against cancer.

Each year more than 2,600 men in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer, but it was the loss of his father-in-law to renal cancer and his uncle to lung cancer that persuaded the All-State football player and All-City basketball player at Episcopal High School and collegiate offensive lineman at Suwanee, the University of the South, to get involved in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides/Real Men Wear Pink campaign.

“It is important to me to do all I can to battle against this disease that impacts so many families,” said Pajcic, a personal injury attorney.

Whether his fight is on the basketball court, in the courtroom or against cancer, Pajcic knows women need all the help they can get in their fight to survive the pain and suffering of cancer.

“Every day, the American Cancer Society helps people take steps to reduce their risk of breast cancer or find it early, when it’s small and easiest to treat,” said Pajcic, of San Marco. “They provide free information and services when and where people need it. They are funding groundbreaking research to find, prevent, and treat breast cancer, and are working to ensure access to mammograms for women who need them.”

An avid runner, Pajcic has competed in more than a dozen marathons and more than 50 half-marathons. Don’t be surprised to see him running this October wearing pink, and he is sure to sport pink ties or bow ties all year long.

For more information on how you can support the Real Men Wear Pink campaign or sign up for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Jacksonville on Saturday, Oct. 22 at Hemming Park, go to www.makingstrirdeswalk.org/jacksonvillefl.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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