Columbia River bridge to be lit for ovarian cancer awareness

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldJuly 24, 2013 

The cable bridge spanning the Columbia River will be lit up in teal during September if a group of local ovarian cancer awareness advocates meets its fundraising goal.

Ovarian Cancer Together needs to collect $5,000 in pledges and donations by July 29 to cover the cost. As of Wednesday afternoon, about $1,850 was in hand.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and teal -- like pink for breast cancer -- is the color associated with spreading awareness of the disease.

Other bridges around the country have been lit for ovarian cancer and similar causes, but the action would be unprecedented in this region -- the first lighting of its kind of a state highway bridge in south-central Washington.

The state Department of Transportation has granted permission, dependent on the group covering the cost, confirmed Summer Derrey, a WSDOT spokeswoman.

The money pays WSDOT workers to install tinted plexiglass covers over the bridge's decorative lights.

WSDOT determined there would be no safety issues because only decorative lights would change color, Derrey told the Herald.

Leaders of the ovarian cancer group said the teal lighting will get people talking and go a long way toward raising awareness in the Tri-Cities.

For them, the mission is personal.

Jodi DeCola, the group's vice president, is a three-year survivor who was diagnosed after her doctor discovered suspicious tissue during a Caesarean section delivery.

Ovarian cancer is the most deadly gynecologic cancer, with about 22,240 new cases and 14,230 deaths estimated in the U.S. this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Still, "a lot of times when we sit in our support group, one thing that comes up is people don't know a lot about ovarian cancer," said DeCola, 43, of West Richland. "... I'm a mother of five. I want to be here to watch my kids grow up. I know every women does. Whether she has kids or not, she wants to live her life. Awareness is huge."

Group leaders note the bridge can be "tealed" with 100 pledges of $50. Some are coming in bigger; Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, for example, is kicking in $500.

Karen Miller of Richland, whose mom is fighting ovarian cancer and is part of the local group, is helping spread the word about the fundraising.

She said she admires the members' tenacity.

"As these women are fighting cancer they're still concerned about raising awareness. They're there to help others," she said. "They're incredible."

The group plans to honor community members and loved ones who've died from ovarian cancer at the bridge lighting ceremony.

Donations to the bridge effort can be made online at www.ovariancancertogether.org or mailed to Ovarian Center Together, PO Box 4802 West Richland, WA 99353.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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