Dig Pink mission still going strong for Bolles, Bishop Kenny

Tradition began 12 years ago between the programs

By Justin Barney - Sports Editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Elise Bush had an idea. 

Awareness and support of breast cancer research was growing and the longtime Bolles volleyball coach had a thought that she pitched to rival coach Suzanne Winkler at Bishop Kenny in 2008. 

Why not package arguably the area's best volleyball rivalry into a night to honor, remember and support women who were battling or recovering from breast cancer? Donate the money from the night to a local cause — in this case, Donna Deegan's ‘Donna Foundation' — and do a small part to support a bigger cause. 

Twelve years later, Bush is no longer here, but her suggestion is still going strong. 

On a night awash in pink, the host Crusaders swept Bolles 25-16, 25-21, 25-15 on Tuesday night. The victory pushed Kenny to 10-10 on the season as the district tournament approaches next week.

For Winkler, the event and everything it represents, is one of the best nights of the year.

For the fans. The players. The mission. And the memories. 

It's also launched numerous other programs across the First Coast to hold similar Dig Pink or Pink Out matches. 

"I hope it never dies down," Winkler said of the event. "Our kids were great. Tonight was great. I love to see all the pink, and Donna [Deegan] coming back. It's just an awesome event."

Bush spent 31 seasons as Bolles' head coach, winning a state title in 1989. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015 and spent the rest of that season off the bench undergoing treatment before returning to the Bulldogs in 2016. That was her last season.

Bush retired before the 2017 season began and died in February 2018. Bush was 58 years old and won 696 games in her career. She was recently inducted into the Florida High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. 

Bush, former Fletcher coach Karen Caron, former Menendez/Nease and St. Joseph coach Betty Stansel and former Sandalwood coach Carlyce Cononie are among the area coaches who have passed the 500-win mark, but are no longer coaching. 

"She was an unbelievable mentor and every time we do this, I think about her, I think every one does inside," Winkler said. "She was just always doing it for the right reason and motivated and touched so many lives. Definitely missed her tonight."

Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.