Pink is the new black

Published 7:37 am Sunday, October 24, 2021

As part of Central Mississippi’s program of Real Mean Wear Pink, Natchez’s own Dennis Short is doing his part to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society. “Our (mine and Darby’s) involvement began in 2018 when Dan Gibson was our ‘Real Man,’” Dennis shared. “Of course, that was before COVID, so Team Natchez was able to have a variety of fundraising events throughout the fundraising period, which is from August 1 through October 31.”

With a series of concerts held throughout town, Team Natchez made fundraising fun on Sunday afternoons. “With the help of Mary Lessley and the Natchez Festival of Music, we were able to have singers from the opera festival as well as some wonderful local talent,” he said. “That year we raised a little more than $35,000.00. As a matter of fact, Team Natchez came in second place statewide in the ‘fun raising’ competition, and the Central Mississippi group was in the top twenty in the country.”

In 2019, Kevin Deason was Team Natchez’s Real Man in Pink and raised nearly $20,000 with similar musical events. “We did lose Kevin to a battle with cancer in 2020,” Dennis remembered, which brings an even deeper meaning to this year’s fundraising efforts.

“This year’s fundraising has proven to be a challenge with COVID restrictions,” Dennis added. However, Team Natchez is in first place for fundraising efforts in a group of 26 Real Men in the Central Mississippi district with a goal of $50,000 in close site.

“Although we do have one or two what I would consider ‘major donors’ of $1,000 or more, the overwhelming donations are smaller ones,” Dennis added. “It has proven to be a very humbling experience.”

There have been a few fundraising events in Jackson over the past few months with silent auction packages brought from each Real Man in Pink. A recent package that Team Natchez donated brought in $1,400 for a weekend trip to Natchez. 

“Of course, we have sold boxes of Darby’s Fudge to raise more money,” Dennis said. “We’re even having an online raffle of an authentic pink ‘Follow me to Nellie’s’ t-shirt. Like I said, with COVID restrictions you’ve got to think outside the box.”

Each Real Man in Pink is asked to select a “cheerleader” to help them through the process. Dennis’ choice was a no brainer. “None of this, and I mean none of this, would be possible without the help and direction of my bride, Darby,” he shared. “I may be Real Man in Pink, but she is behind the entire effort. 

“She has kept me on task with wonderful ideas. From dying my hair pink to making sure I wear something pink every day this month, Darby has been the mastermind. To say this would not be happening without her is the all-time understatement.”

Personally, Dennis himself has faced a cancer battle and won. “As a cancer survivor myself, I fully understand the surprise, the shock, and the uncertainty of the diagnosis,” he shared. “Having been through my personal cancer journey, I can now not only appreciate the pain, the fear and times of questioning the whole thing for not only the patient, but also for the caregiver. 

“The experience of being able to look a patient or caregiver in the eye and honestly say ‘I know how you feel’ has proven to be a remarkable one. Through working in past years with Real Men, I’ve come to more fully appreciate the role the American Cancer Society plays in fighting the battle. We owe them a debt we may never be able to repay. It is my honor to do whatever I can do to help.”