HAMPSTEAD — “The Pink” comes from the color that represents the fight against breast cancer. “Bowz” comes from the teens’ experience with cheerleading.
Alleigh Wiggs, Kayleigh Riker and Anna Williams were all on the Topsail High School cheerleading team at the time they began The Pink Bowz.
It started when Wiggs and Riker heard one of their friend’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2015. A few weeks prior, Riker said Wiggs had sent her a text saying, “Hey, we should do something charity-wise for people.” After learning of their friend’s mother, Wiggs and Riker saw this as their opportunity and teamed up with Williams to start brainstorming ideas on how to raise money.
“We were getting to talking one night before the fundraiser, and were like, ‘You know, we should really continue this — do something more with it,’” Riker said.
And “something more” they did. On Aug. 3, 2015, Riker, Wiggs and Williams filed The Pink Bowz as a business.
Aug. 15, 2015, The Pink Bowz completed its first fundraiser at the Hwy 55 in Hampstead, raising $670 to donate to their friend’s mother.
“It’s our community,” Riker said. “We want to give back to the community that’s given so much to us.”
The American Cancer Society estimated that for 2017, there will be 8,580 new cases of female breast cancer in North Carolina alone. Nationally, they estimated 255,180 cases of breast cancer will arise in 2017.
In the 2016 Cancer Annual report, New Hanover Regional Medical Center reports that in 2015, there were 421 total cases of breast cancer, while 418 of those were female breast cancer.
In two years, The Pink Bowz has donated $6,000 to seven women in the Hampstead and Wilmington area. Their goal is to donate $10,000 before they graduate from Topsail High School in June 2018.
As cheerleaders, Wiggs said they wore and made many bows for cheerleading alone, so they started making bows to sell to raise money for their business.
However, after participating in Hampstead’s annual Spot Festival, Wiggs said they realized the amount of work that goes into making so many bows, so they switched their emphasis from bows to bigger fundraisers.
“We found a niche to where it worked out a lot better to do these bigger fundraisers rather than try and sell bows because the market around here is a lot smaller, so we do it sometimes, but we definitely found greater success with other stuff,” Wiggs said.
The Pink Bowz has grown into a club at Topsail High School as well, allowing more students and the community to be involved in the fundraising events.
Molly Johnson was one of the students who joined the club.
She said one of her favorite fundraisers The Pink Bowz has done is the Krispy Kreme doughnut fundraiser because she is “not afraid to go door-to-door with some doughnuts.”
In addition to the pancake breakfasts and Krispy Kreme fundraisers, The Pink Bowz has had penny wars between grade levels at school; “pink-out” games for volleyball, football and basketball; a bowling night; an ice skating night; and putt-putt. They are currently planning a 5K, which they are hoping will happen within the next year.
The four girls do not only focus on one person at a time, but they also share other stories about people with breast cancer in the area.
“We like to hear people’s stories,” Riker said. “We like it if they have a GoFundMe because we can repost it to our Facebook, our Twitter, Instagram, and get the word out because not only can our followers help other people, but it’s getting shared then and going around social media.”
But it’s not just the story — it’s the personal touch the girls find most beneficial in receiving donations.
“Knowing the story behind who you’re donating to makes it a more personal experience because you’ll scroll through Facebook any day and see GoFundMes everywhere, but if you actually see a face with a name and a story … it definitely pulls at your heartstrings more,” Johnson said.
Wiggs said they try to give each person $1,000.
“You know, even if these people are financially stable, this money does help them in some way take care of their costs,” she said. “Because you know they’re having to give up their paycheck to having cancer.”
Where is The Pink Bowz going?
The business is in transition.
Riker, who graduated from Topsail High School earlier this year, is now beginning her freshman year at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro. She plans to spend her weekends home doing fundraising events with The Pink Bowz.
“I’m not done. There’s no way I’m done,” she said.
Johnson, Wiggs and Williams are finishing their time at Topsail High School.
But even though they all plan to leave the Hampstead area for college, they hope to bring The Pink Bowz with them wherever they go.
“I think if everything works out well, I want to keep it going while I’m in college,” Wiggs said. “Hopefully it’ll see even better days than it has already.”