skip navigation

Chicago Mission-led Pink In The Rink Raises $61,761 for American Cancer Society

By Ross Forman, 02/16/24, 1:45PM CST


After 16 Years, Annual Event Has Raised More Than $550,000

Gino Cavallini, with his freshly-shaven bald ‘do, held a super-sized check surrounded by smiling – and certainly proud – members of the Chicago Mission U19 girls’ team.

This Mission club spearheaded the 16th annual Pink In The Rink which includes all four Mission girls’ teams. They played games on Saturday, January 27, at Fifth Third Arena in Chicago, and sure, both the Mission and the Windy City Storm wanted the win that day, but the greater good was more important.

Cavallini, the Mission club president who spent nine seasons as a left-wing in the NHL before turning to coaching, held a check for the American Cancer Society for $61,761.97 bringing the club’s 16-year total of funds raised in the Pink In The Rink to more than $550,000.

“It’s incredible,” what the event has accomplished, said Erin Rourke, girls’ hockey director for the Mission.

The event started when a former U19 Mission girls’ player had a family member diagnosed with breast cancer. The U19 team decided to play a fundraising game with a bake sale at the rink, and they hoped to raise $200, Rourke said.

Now, the event fills the season for all four Mission girls’ teams and the Storm teams, too. Everyone contributes fundraising efforts.

“Our families have really jumped on board with this (fundraising),” Rourke said. “The U19s ask for donations, talk to the younger teams about the event, the importance and value of the event. It really warms my heart. Where this event began to where it is today, it’s just unbelievable.

“When we pose for a photo with that oversized check, wow, that’s when you really shake your head and think, ‘This is unbelievable.’”

Pink In The Rink is truly a team effort, including the players who design the annual t-shirt for the event and so much more.

Rourke was on the bench last month for both the U12s and the U19s when each skated in pink jerseys.

When players are introduced, they state for whom they are playing. “Years ago, the responses were, ‘For anyone affected’ or “For everyone affected.’ Now, as we know all too well, cancer affects everyone. Now it’s, ‘For my Aunt Sue.’ They are specific who they are playing for,” Rourke said.

“Cancer hits home for so many of these kids and this event is a great way to give back.”

The day includes auctions, raffles and countless donations – all for the cause.

“It used to just be a game, now it’s an event, something that I know every Mission player is very proud of,” Rourke said.

The U19 team auctioned their Pink In The Rink jerseys, too.

“Sure, we play to win games. But, in that moment, at that game, the community really comes together. It doesn’t matter what color jersey you wear, we’re all there for the cause. It truly is fun to be in the rink that day,” Rourke said. “Pink In The Rink has surpassed anything we ever dreamed.

“Giving back is important, and all of the kids take that lesson with them in the rest of their lives. Hockey is about life lessons, and this event is a great lesson to learn.”

Cavallini added, “Pink In The Rink is a wonderful opportunity for the club, particularly the girls’ side of the club, to get behind a charity that’s meaningful to everyone – to raise the amount of money that they do and bring awareness to the American Cancer Society.

“After the event, it brings tears to my eyes, seeing how much they are able to accomplish and raise for such a wonderful (charity).”

And then it’s time to shave Cavallini’s head, a fundraising tradition he’s honored for about 10 years.

The shaving, he said, “is my little part of (the fundraising). The girls know how fortunate they are. This event is a great way they can give back, do something that really means a lot.”

So, will Rourke shave her head too in 2025?

“They didn’t ask me this year, but they did ask me the year before. I considered it but had an out: a wedding that summer and that bride would have … been a little upset with me.

“It’s certainly not out of the question, if it raises money for a good cause.”