Hearing the words, “You have cancer,” is life-changing in every sense of the word, especially for someone who has lived a healthy lifestyle as an athlete. For Della Porter, learning that she had breast cancer not only changed her outlook on life – she started celebrating her birthday again – but it also spurred her into action.
Porter is an annual speaker at the closing ceremonies of the breast cancer softball fundraiser, the Pink Tournament, as a survivor. And year after year, her story touches the participants.
“For the young ladies, it’s nice that I can put a face to a survivor,” Porter said. “It’s not a morbid sentence anymore, I’m someone who’s just like them that used to play this game. You give them that connection and as a nine-year survivor there’s hope because of what they’re raising funds for and supporting. I love seeing the looks on the faces and seeing the understanding.”
Porter continually emphasizes the importance of the tournament and how one of the highlights for her every year is seeing the knowledge dawn on the faces of the young girls and women that this isn’t ‘just another softball tournament.’ The tournament has a purpose, and for Porter that hits home.
She says that every year, someone new will come up to her and congratulate her. That’s always a powerful moment she says. This year though, she made a personal connection with one player that really stood out.
“A young player came up to me and had recently lost her grandmother, and asked for a hug,” Porter said. “That was really a moment.”
Porter loves being able to positively impact these young athletes as well as admires the action on the field. A former catcher herself, Porter says that the tournament is one of the most efficiently run that she’s ever seen and the quality of play continues to increase year after year.
As the current coordinator of all softball operations for the New Jersey Special Olympics, Porter is an authority on the subject. She also heads up a team in the local Susan G. Komen’s annual walk. Despite giving back so much to various organizations, the Pink tournament still holds a special place in her heart.
“Working this tournament and talking to these girls is a way to give back to the game and to help fight this disease,” Porter said.
Year after year, Porter gets to see these girls grow personally and on the field, and they truly remember her, especially by one of her mottos.
“I always used to say, ‘Pink isn’t a color in a Crayola box, it’s an attitude,’” Porter said. “It’s touched me knowing that we are getting through and they know that you can survive. Getting breast cancer, or any cancer is not an automatic death sentence.”
Porter loves to talk about her experience with the players as a way to educate the next generation, the people that have the power to make real change into the future. The pride on their faces when they don their pink uniforms and tie the pink ribbons in their hair, is just the first step, but for Porter, it signals that this tournament is causing real change.
“I hope to see this event continue for as long as it takes,” Porter said. “One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, so my hope is that there won’t be a need for this tournament, but I’d like to see it continue until that day.”