Column: Pink socks celebrate a team effort toward a cure

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on Nov. 4, 2009

Twelve-year-old Tanner Robertsen dashed toward the end zone in his muddy green football uniform on Saturday, flanked by his Elburn Lions teammates, adding the final touch to what was to be a victory that propelled the Lions to a first-place finish in the Aurora Superstars Youth Tackle Football League.

But, in the long run, the touchdown wasn’t nearly as important as what Tanner and his teammates were wearing with their green uniforms as they rushed toward that end zone – pink socks.

Tanner has a good reason for his apparel. He has two close family members battling breast cancer – his mom, Donna Robertsen, and grandma, Loretta Jobin of Sandwich. Donna was diagnosed two years ago in the summer of 2007. Jobin was diagnosed this April. Tanner wore the pink socks to honor them.

“[Donna] is doing as well as a cancer patient can do,” said Donna’s husband and Tanner’s father, Mike Robertsen. “It never leaves your mind. It’s an up-and-down swing. It’s a challenge every day, and she’s met the challenge very well.”

Tanner, a sixth-grade student at Kaneland Middle School, first asked Elburn Lions head coach Jay Strang if he could wear the socks four weeks ago, the first week of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“You bet you can wear pink socks,” Strang told him.

His mom remembers that first game well.

“I cried the first time he came out with his on,” Donna said. “The fact that he wanted to do it – it’s an emotional thing, anyway. And then to have to have your kids go through it. It’s hard, too. It was emotional for me and my mom.”

The next week, Mike and Donna were in for another surprise. Tanner’s teammates had asked Strang if they could wear pinks socks, as well.

“We’ll all wear pink socks,” Strang told them.

And the team would continue to wear the pink socks through the rest of the season.

“To see these kids support him,” Mike said, “that’s where the beauty of this is.”

“It was really overwhelming as far as feelings go,” Donna said. “I was overwhelmed with the support he got from his other teammates.”

Tanner, who plays quarterback, has been in youth football for four years. Mike said he has never seen anything like this.

“Every time I see it, to me, it’s wonderful to see that kids of this age care about these kinds of things,” Mike said, “and it’s great to see that my son is not alone with his feelings. They are there by his side.”

Donna then e-mailed me after our talk:

“This has not been about our family only. It just started out that way. It’s for everyone who has either had someone they know battle cancer or lost someone to cancer. Because if we find a cure for one cancer there will be other cures to follow. In the time that you read this article, two more women have been diagnosed with breast cancer. So if our story touches one person, then we have done our job making people aware the need for a cure. Imagine a world without breast cancer. I can!”

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