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Pink Wave Goes Viral, Engulfs Windham Middle School

WMS students, parents and teachers come together in support of 7th-grader who wore pink in honor of mother, who survived breast cancer.

Ryan Marotta, left, received a large show of support from his fellow Windham Middle School students and teachers including 8th-grader Joe Dunlap, right. Courtesy photo.
Ryan Marotta, left, received a large show of support from his fellow Windham Middle School students and teachers including 8th-grader Joe Dunlap, right. Courtesy photo.
National Football League players wear pink through the month of October to raise breast cancer awareness.

While the burly professional athletes are generally lauded for the gesture, one Windham Middle School student, who took cue from the NFL, received a much different response when he purchased a pair of pink sneakers and wore them to school.

Ryan Marotta, 12, a 7th-grader, decided wear the shoes in honor of his mother, Kimberly, a breast cancer survivor. Instead of being applauded by his peers, he was teased by some students for his show of support.

"After three days of wearing them to school, I decided to stop wearing them for a couple days," said Marotta. "I told my mom, and she said she still wanted me to wear them and she told me to be proud of what I was doing."

Kimberly Marotta turned to Facebook and posted the following message on Wednesday, Oct. 16:

Feeling sad that even though Ryan was so proud to wear his new pink sneakers and socks for breast cancer awareness, he put them away because ignorant young boys made fun of him. To make it worse, he apologized to me for not wearing them anymore.

Several other parents voiced their support and started passing the message along.

Ryan Marotta's 15-year-old brother Andrew, a sophomore at Central Catholic High School, soon caught wind of what was happening and turned to Twitter, where he posted his own form of brotherly support:

If you have a problem with my brother's pink breast cancer shoes he got because my mom is survivor, you can bring the issue up with me.

He then reached out to Windham Middle School 8th-grade president Joe Dunlap, who began spreading the word to hundreds of his own Twitter followers.

"I was really concerned, so I ended up sending messages to all my contacts," said Dunlap. "I told everyone to keep forwarding it and posting it on Twitter."

What happened next surprised everyone involved.

"When we got to school Thursday, about 170 people were wearing pink, and not just the students, the teachers too," said Dunlap.

Administrators at Windham Middle School were so moved by the overwhelming support that they labeled Friday Breast Cancer Awareness Day and encouraged the entire student body and faculty to wear pink again.

"The story isn't really about everyone wearing pink for Ryan," said Andrew. "It's about using technology for good for once and how everyone came together to support this great cause and raise awareness for breast cancer.

"I never dreamed that the response would be as big as it has been," he continued. "I was blown away that everyone at the school put the effort in to support what we were trying to do."

Dunlap was equally impressed.

"I can't thank everyone enough for wearing pink and supporting the cause," he said. "It doesn't matter what started it, it's the fact that everyone rallied together that really counts."

The effort may still have legs.

Prior to being elected 8th-grade president on Thursday, Dunlap delivered a speech that included the following message and suggestion:

... I want to say thank you to all of you who are wearing pink today. I sent out a message last night in support of a friend who was made fun of for wearing pink to support his mom’s battle with breast cancer. We should all support the cause and be proud to wear pink. If I am elected as your class president I would try to make one day a week Wear Pink Day, in support of cancer.
Gerry Blais October 18, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Much respect to Ryan and Andrew and to all who show support!
Carol Robidoux (Editor) October 18, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Great uplifting story! Unforgettable lesson for all those involved, and all those who appreciate a good ripple effect!
Tom case October 18, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Thanks to all of the students that decided to support Ryan instead of teasing him. Big Thumbs Up to you all.
Rose October 21, 2013 at 12:32 AM
BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO!!!
Cindy Halpern October 21, 2013 at 01:20 PM
I am glad people stood up to bullies and showed support for this worthwhile gesture.
La Glenda Reed October 21, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Wow a beautiful story, I am a public school teacher that specializes in self esteem training for adult women and children....God Bless this Beautiful Child and his efforts to support his Mom....

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