Kay Kerbyson had the idea to light the cable bridge for ovarian cancer awareness while she was watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. “The fireworks against the bridge made it look so beautiful. I thought, wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could light it up in teal?” she recalled. But it wouldn’t be a simple undertaking. Kerbyson and Ovarian Cancer Together, the local advocacy and support group she started, would only have until the end of July to come up with $5,000 to cover the cost.
Could they do it?
The answer is yes, thanks to help from HAPO Community Credit Union and other donors.
HAPO heard about the bridge effort and kicked in the full amount of $5,000. Other groups also made donations, including Kadlec Regional Medical Center, which gave $500.
That means the cable bridge will be lit in teal starting Aug. 29 through September to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. Teal is the color associated with the cancer and September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Money left over after the bridge lighting is paid for will go to ovarian cancer research and support.
“To reach so many women (through the bridge lighting) -- it’s a dream come true,” Kerbyson, 46, of West Richland, a four-time ovarian cancer survivor, told the Herald.
In a statement, Ron Hue from HAPO said, “This is such a unique idea to raise awareness about ovarian cancer that we wanted to help make it happen. Now the project can have dual purpose -- to raise funds for research and awareness.”
Bridges have been lit for cancer awareness in other parts of the country, but the lighting is unprecedented here. Tinted plexiglass covers will be placed over more than 130 lights on the bridge, the ovarian cancer group said.
Workers from the state Department of Transportation will do the installation.
WSDOT determined there would be no safety issue because only decorative lights would be involved; the department gave permission, so long as the ovarian cancer group foots the bill.
A bridge lighting ceremony will be the evening of Aug. 29. It will be a celebration and also a time to remember loved ones who’ve died of ovarian cancer, Kerbyson said.
It’s the deadliest 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.
It has a high five-year survival rate with early diagnosis, but it frequently isn’t caught until the later stages. Ovarian Cancer Together will be handing out symptom cards and taking other steps to raise awareness during September.
The lighting will go a long way, Kerbyson said, noting the cable bridge -- which spans the Columbia River between Pasco and Kennewick -- is a visible landmark.
She said she’s grateful to donors, the state transportation department and state Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, who advocated for the project. “I hope people see the bridge and hold that image in their mind,” Kerbyson said. “If we can save one life, it was well worth it.”
To make a donation, go to www.ovariancancertogether.org or mail to Ovarian Cancer Together, PO Box 4802, West Richland, WA 99353.