Pink isn’t a color, it’s an attitude: guest blogger, Olivia Bonevento

Olivia Bonevento is a featured guest blogger for Komen CSNJ. She lives at the Jersey Shore and is currently a student at a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. Read more about Olivia on her personal blog — oliviabonevento.wordpress.com.

Since the founding of Susan G. Komen Central and South Jersey, one thing has been evident- one of the main goals of the organization is to empower women. The Junior Powderpuff, a sailing regatta based at the Metedeconk River Yacht Club in Brick Township, New Jersey, shares that goal. Both parties banded together on July 8, 2016 at the 33rd Annual Powderpuff Regatta- Komen CSNJ joined the Powderpuff family- a family with a remarkable story.

The Junior Powderpuff was founded in 1984 by Vivian K. Dooren. Her reasoning was quite simple: women were not skippering at the time, they were crewing. Vivian wanted to give young women the chance to steer the boat, to feel a sense of leadership and fulfillment out on the water. With that notion, the Powderpuff was born. Now, 33 years later, the regatta is bigger and better than ever. It has evolved tremendously- going from one fleet to nine, from 14 girls to 250. That alone is Vivian’s favorite thing about the regatta- never in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine the Regatta would become this big. And big it is, with over 100 volunteers who come back year after year to make the regatta great, most notably Karen Haupt. Karen has played an instrumental role in enhancing the day- she is the woman behind the infamous Teddy Bears, the raffles, and the sponsors. As the regatta has grown, so has the girl’s enthusiasm: the pride that is shown every year is unrivaled- some yacht clubs make their own shirts for the race, and the regatta motto, “Pink isn’t just a color, it’s an attitude” is proudly referenced throughout the day. Vivian’s experience running the Powderpuff may be complete, as of 2016 she has three granddaughters sailing in the regatta- again, something she never imagined. Getting to watch her granddaughters sail is extremely rewarding for her, and she also knows the regatta is in good hands- she is “deeply gratified that the individuals who took over are as enthusiastic as she has always been”.

As a former sailor in the Powderpuff, I see firsthand where all of the enthusiasm stems from. For one day a year, the girls rule the water. The regatta has created an environment where girls aren’t just proud to be sailors, they are proud to be girls.

I for one sailed my first Powderpuff regatta at the age of 10. As a beginner sailor, I watched the older girls rig their boats and wear their team shirts in awe- I couldn’t wait to be a part of such a magical event. Now, at the age of 20, I come back every year to help. Because, let’s face it, nothing is more amazing than watching a sea of pink. This east coast phenomenon has girls coming high and low to represent not only their yacht clubs, but the increase of female skippers in the sport of sailing.

Susan G. Komen has contributed to this sea of pink by becoming a part of the Powderpuff family and for encouraging the girls at the regatta to sail for someone they love. The process of sailing for a loved one was simple: the girl purchased a bandana, wrote the name of someone they care about who has been impacted by cancer, and displayed the bandana somewhere on their person for the duration of the regatta. It was extremely touching to see girls as young as 8 years old wearing bandanas in support of their loved ones. Lori Husak, Patty Hunt, Patty Mrozcko, Johanna Schon, and Laura Sleys were the remarkable, hard-working women behind the 33rd annual regatta: thank you for bringing together sailing and Susan G. Komen- there is no better way to empower girls than to remind them that there is always hope, even in the face of obstacles.

When I first started sailing in the Powderpuff, I thought that it couldn’t get any better. I am glad to have been proven wrong, as the regatta has proven to go above and beyond all expectations. Although the gifts are plenty and the team shirts are fun to show off, at the end of the day, the Powderpuff is still about the sport of sailing and giving young women the chance to embrace their strength and character. Just as the Susan G. Komen foundation empowers both current victims and survivors of Breast cancer, the junior Powderpuff empowers girls 8–18 to find the drive within themselves to fight for what they believe in and to not let the typical gender stereotypes act as a form of discouragement. Girls have power, strength, and the ability to do whatever they set their mind to- I thank the Powderpuff for showing not only me but those before and after me how valuable it is to go out and embrace whatever life throws our way.


Originally published at komencsnj.org.

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