Feb 8, 2019

By Tom Witosky

Follow @toskyahlwild

When the Iowa Wild players take the ice Saturday night, they won’t be alone.

Breast cancer survivors Dory Anthony, Jean Bischof, Demetra Anas and more than 40 others who have fought the dreaded disease will be there, too, as the Wild and the Susan G. Komen of Greater Iowa organization stage the sixth annual Pink in the Rink night. 

The Wild, in its effort to support the fight against breast cancer and to honor those victimized by it, decided this season to have the names more than 40 fighters sewn on the players game jerseys for their match against the San Antonio Rampage.

“I know I am going to be tearful and joyful,” said Dyersville, IA native Shana Willenberg when asked what’s likely to happen when she sees her mother’s name, Jean Bischof, on a player’s white jersey. “I know how hard she has fought and what kind of inspiration she is to her family, my brothers and me.”

Austin Taylor, an Iowa Wild season ticket holder, knows he’ll also probably need to wipe the tears away when the Wild players take the ice for the opening faceoff.  His mother, Dory Anthony, has been in full remission since discovering her breast cancer in 2011.

“I will be happy to see her smile and tear up,” Taylor said. “I’ve teared up at every Pink in the Rink because cancer is something that you don’t mess around with. I’ve also found it brings a family or friends even closer together.”

Allie Brown, the Wild’s senior director of marketing and creative services, said the Pink in the Rink game is steadily becoming one the franchise’s biggest promotional events that attracts fans from all over the state.

“It is fun working with the organization to build this up,” Brown said. “More and more people select this date ahead of time. It is one of those games they want to come out and support those fighting the battle. “

The Wild's support for the fight against breast cancer has included appreciation nights, helping with fundraising through donating tickets and a player jersey auction following each Pink in the Rink game. A similar auction will be held after Saturday’s night contest.

Saturday night’s festivities will also include a moment between periods designed to show the impact of breast cancer on Iowans each year. In the past, the ceremony has been focused on points of light shining in the darkness by each person affected by breast cancer.

Brown said this year the crowd will be asked to wave rally towels distributed as fans enter the arena.

“The idea is to show how many people are affected by breast cancer every year. We believe it will show how widespread the impact of this disease is,” Brown said. “The towels are to show how everyone rallies around those who are fighting. It’s inspiring to see just how many people can be a support system for those battling breast cancer.”

Among the names to be found on the jerseys will be Demetra Anas, known affectionately as Deme, the mother of Iowa Wild forward Sam Anas.  Anas said his mother, who will be attending Saturday’s game along with family members and friends from the Maryland area, has had to deal with another bout of cancer during the past year, but her recovery is going well.

“It’s been tough. My mom is one of those who doesn’t like to talk about how she is doing,” Anas said. Even if she wasn’t doing well, she would keep to herself.”

Deme will be on each of the Iowa players’ jerseys, along with names of other fighters on the sleeves, the Wild crest on the front and on the numbers on the back.

“That’s something I never thought would happen for any reason,” Anas said. “That is definitely a special jersey that means a lot to her, to me and the entire family. It will be an emotional time.”

 For Shana Willenberg, just having her mother’s name on the jerseys represents a recognition of how her mother has faced the challenge of two bouts of breast cancer, as well as leukemia, over the last 10 years.

“It is important to keep those who are fighting the battle in our minds and prayers,” Willenberg said. “It’s also important that all women continue to make sure they are checking themselves because early detection is the best way to try to beat these things.”

Austin Taylor said he turned his mother into a big Wild fan and now both are season ticket holders. But, he added, what’s important is that she will be honored Saturday night as a survivor.

“Now, she works maybe 16 hours out of each day,” Taylor said. “She works so hard with very little downtime and I wanted to do this for her. She needs to be rewarded in a special way that she will remember.”

Anas also agreed the night will be one to celebrate family and recognizes the battle against breast cancer is a fight that brings family and friends together.

“We have a big crew of Deme Anas supporters coming out this weekend, so it should be fun,” Anas said.

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