POSTED ON OCTOBER 19, 2011:
Tulsa Through Rose-Colored Glasses
Hundreds of Tulsa businesses get on Turn Tulsa Pinkís bandwagon
One fluffy bright-pink tutu, $9.99 from a costume shop. One glossy pink feather boa, free, already in her closet. Pink-and-black striped tights, less than $10 online.
One rusty Radio Flyer wagon, donated and spray painted dusty pink. One cartoon-pink wig, also donated.
For less than $30, Judi Grove transformed from a 33-year cervical cancer survivor into the fairy godmother, chairwoman and head cheerleader of Turn Tulsa Pink, a campaign to raise awareness for all types of cancers.
The cause is close to her heart. When she was 23 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Doctors told her she wouldn't be able to have more children and needed a hysterectomy. But Grove couldn't give up on the idea of more children.
A few experimental surgeries later, Grove was cancer-free. After two more children, it returned.
She was only 27 when she had a full hysterectomy. In 2007, Grove started her non-profit Breast Impressions when she thought she might lose one breast to persistent tumors.
Every two years she was having surgery to remove tumors. "I call it my Franken-boob," Grove laughed. But once she started Breast Impressions, the tumors stopped.
"It's got to be God," she said. "I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing."
Living the Dream
The mother of three and grandmother of ten said the idea for turning Tulsa pink came to her as all grand ideas do -- in a dream.
In early February, Grove dreamed she was dressed in a pink wig, pink tutu, pulling a pink wagon and walking north along Boston Ave. "People were coming out of the buildings...and they started skipping behind the wagon with me, and everyone was happy and clapping.
I was smiling and looking around, and suddenly, I realized there was a pink glow. I looked up, and the whole BOK Tower was glowing," Grove said.
She sat up in bed, leaned over to her husband and said, "I know what I'm supposed to do to be worthy of the Tulsey [Award]. I've got to turn Tulsa pink."
The year before her dream, Grove was honored with the 2010 Tulsey Award for civic service. The two previous winners were George Kaiser, philanthropist and richest man in Oklahoma, and Ken Busby, director of the Tulsa Arts & Humanities Council.
"I'm thinking, 'I can't fill these shoes.' But I figure they're men, their feet are bigger anyway," Grove laughed. "But it bothered me that I did not feel worthy of something so monumental in Tulsa," she said.
When she accepted the Tulsey -- an award she earned through the creation of her non-profit, Breast Impressions, in 2007 -- Grove promised she would do everything she could to raise awareness for cancer and save lives.
Tallulah Tulsa is Born
After her dream, Grove assembled what she calls her "Tallulah Tulsa" outfit -- the full pink regalia -- and began telling friends about her idea. "And everybody wanted to get on my bandwagon," she said.
Now, Grove literally pulls her sponsors around in her re-purposed Radio Flyer. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think..." Grove trailed off, still surprised at Turn Tulsa Pink's success, "I had 12 sponsors sign up just yesterday."
Turn Tulsa Pink, a non-profit attached to Grove's already-existing Breast Impressions, has a full committee of 30 dedicated women -- and two men -- who are organizing events, sponsorships and general pink fanfare for the week of Oct. 22-29.
So far, about 215 Tulsa County businesses, people and agencies have signed on as sponsors for Turn Tulsa Pink. Becoming a sponsor is as easy as donating $100 to the cause, a small but generous number.
From there, Grove asks sponsors to keep her updated on their unique, creative plans to raise money for one of ten selected charities, like Cancer Sucks, Project Women and Soulful Survivors. The charities support women and children who have suffered from or are affected by all types of cancer, Grove pointed out.
"Our pink is inclusive," she said.
Since 1990, big cities around the world have lit up well-known monuments in pink to raise awareness for breast cancer. But Tulsa has taken its pink further.
Only Tulsa has four different emergency vehicles sporting new pink wrapping. The BOK Center, Tulsa Convention Center, City Hall, Tulsa Driller and Philtower are among the Tulsa landmarks that will glow pink during the week.
And pink charity events are stacked one on another throughout the week.
A pink flash mob is planned for Oct. 22 during the Green Country Roller Girls game at the Civic Center.
Semi-retired ballet dancer, dance instructor and business owner Sher'ron Underwood is organizing the flash mob and choreographed the moves, which can be found (and learned) on YouTube.
Underwood lost her aunt to breast cancer and her grandmother to colon cancer, and reached out to Grove. Turn Tulsa Pink "is a cause that really resonated with me, and this was a way to get involved because of my skills, and I'm very passionate about dance," Underwood said.
Underwood said she'd be dancing to honor her "angel on earth" Aunt Carita and Grandmother Underwood.
The roller girls, in turn, will auction off their own breast impressions, casts made by Grove, to raise money for the Oklahoma Family Network.
Pink-A-Palooza will be held Oct. 27 at Cain's Ballroom with live music by the Ruskettes, Kelly Lynn Baxter and Rebecca Ungerman among others.
On Oct. 26, funky fresh clothing shop Must Stash will hold a fashion show in Philtower's lobby just an hour before Living Arts of Tulsa debuts its cabaret show.
Tulsans are snapping up pink light bulbs -- for your front porch or lamp -- sold specifically for Turn Tulsa Pink at Secret Gardens Candle Co. for $5.
The cities of Jenks, Owasso and Broken Arrow have jumped on the bandwagon, too.
Friday night football games will get a rose-colored makeover during Turn Tulsa Pink week. Everyone from cheerleaders to kids in the bleachers will wear pink for the Oct. 28 game between Jenks and Broken Arrow.
Broken Arrow students are putting together a memorial tribute for loved ones they've lost to cancer, while a large fountain will glow pink for the week, too.
Some local businesses are supporting the wide-reaching cause of cancer awareness through other means, as well.
At the Broken Arrow Med Spa & Weight Loss Center, owner and medical aesthetics professional Malissa Spacek has pledged to help the cause, though the spa did not sign on with the Turn Tulsa Pink campaign.
Spacek said the spa will donate 10 percent of the proceeds from all Botox procedures for October and November to Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Spacek also performs areola restoration, a delicate medical art. After surgery on the breast or after pigment is lost, especially in cases of breast cancer, Spacek can carefully re-shade and delineate an areola again.
"She can go in and make it look like you again," said Meg Sutherland, a Med Spa employee.
Victory Christian Center and Victory Christian School have already collected and donated more than 3,000 items for their chosen charity, Random Acts of Purpose, which helps women and children who are affected by cancer.
The school's principal even dyed his hair pink for their football game Oct. 7.
"My dad told me if you ever want to get a point across you have to do something pretty crazy but non-violent," Grove said. "And I mean, a lady in a pink wig and tutu is getting attention. Especially in a pink car."
After her light-hearted interview in the UTW offices, Grove collected her pink sunglasses and iPhone -- with hot-pink cover -- and drove off in her bubblegum-pink Mazda into a rose-tinged Tulsa sunset.
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