Little Pink Returns to Oak Island
The local community steps up to support Little Pink Houses of Hope and families impacted by breast cancer.
Little Pink Houses of Hope returned to Oak Island this September. Seven families impacted by breast cancer visited the island for a week of relaxation, rejuvenation and escape from reality. Little Pink Houses of Hope, a national 501(c)3 nonprofit headquartered in Burlington, North Carolina, has sponsored retreats since 2011 at various locations across the country including Emerald Isle, North Carolina; Key West, Florida; Gulf Shores, Alabama; and our own charming Oak Island.
Local businesses and churches provided housing and all activities, services and meals free of charge so that the families could focus on spending quality time together. Little Pink Houses promotes breast cancer recovery through opportunities for survivors to celebrate life through the belief that a cancer diagnosis affects the entire family. Jeanine Patten-Coble, a ten-year breast cancer survivor, started Little Pink Houses after noticing the gap in services for families of survivors. In 2021 the organization was named National Breast Cancer Non-Profit of the Year.
The retreat would not have been possible without the incredible support of the community. Marianne Lawruk, Nancy Newcom and Connie Kelly, local volunteers referred to as Team Pink, made preparations for the families’ arrivals. Lawruk, who has been involved with the organization for five years, says, “In 2012, my sister-in-law lost her battle with breast cancer. Her daughter, my niece, who lived in North Carolina at that time, was involved with Little Pink. When I relocated to this area from Pennsylvania, she asked me to team up with her to work with Little Pink for Oak Island.”
As an experienced Team Pink leader, Lawruk coached Newcom and Kelly, who joined the team this year.
“When Marianne asked me if I wanted to help with Little Pink, I didn’t hesitate to jump right in,” Kelly says. “I immediately thought of my lifelong friend, Joy, who passed away from breast cancer in early 2020. She would have loved a chance to spend precious time with her family in this way. I do this in her honor.”
Newcom had a different reason to volunteer. “Both my parents were devoted volunteers all their lives and I always wanted to follow in their footsteps,” she says. “Last year when I heard Marianne and Connie talking about Little Pink, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
Little Pink Houses of Hope secured housing for each family donated by clients of Oak Island Accommodations and private owners. Team Pink garnered meals from Shagger Jacks, Southport Smoke House, Gourmet to Go & Catered Affairs LLC and Kate’s Pancake House. Domino’s Pizza donated a complete meal for the families, and Intercoastal Realty donated Jersey Mike’s subs for lunch on the beach. Local volunteer Lori Boyer made desserts, and Barb Sauter decorated the Fellowship Hall at First Baptist Church of Oak Island with a beach-theme for the opening and closing dinners. Activities were sponsored by Ocean Cure, Oak Island Parks & Recreation and the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport and included kayaking, standup paddleboarding and a visit to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. For some of the 19 adults and 12 children who hailed from New York, Virginia, Minnesota and North Carolina, the retreat was the first time experiencing the thrill of paddleboarding and kayaking.
Team Pink organized neighborhood supply drives for paper products, cleaning supplies, beach towels and gift cards. Each family’s home was gifted a tote filled with memorabilia donated by individual local businesses including Boo & Roo’s, Cat on a Whisk and the Christmas House, while Uncorked by the Sea hosted a wine-tasting fundraiser donating proceeds to the retreat.
“Even though the businesses and restaurants were so hard hit these past two years, they have been as generous as possible, and even a little apologetic that they couldn’t do more,” Kelly says. “I am humbled by the open hearts of others.”
The retreat was directed by Jody Carroll from Kansas City, Missouri.
“I truly believe as human beings we are called to love each other,” Carroll says. “I’m grateful to volunteer for Little Pink because of the unique and remarkable ways that Little Pink cares for the retreat participants and families as well as the volunteers and communities who support them.”
Assisting Carroll were four VolunStars who catered to each family’s personal needs throughout the week on a one-on-one basis.
Lawruk concludes, “Our local team was very committed and made the planning and organizing easy and fun!”
Newcom adds, “Working with Team Pink and meeting the families to share the generosity of all of our local donors who made the retreat possible has been both rewarding and an honor.”
Want to learn more?
To volunteer or find out more about this nonprofit organization, visit littlepink.org.