Dubuque chapter of Pink Ladies takes aim at cancer

Pink Ladies of Dubuque members June Henry (from left), Tracy Billmeyer, Laci Kennedy, Michelle Hastings, Brenda Henry-Schreiber and Lori Schmitt meet at Eichman’s Bar & Grill in Sageville, Iowa. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA REILLY

Lori Schmitt participates in a league match at Eichman’s. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA REILLY

June Henry (clockwise from left), Brenda Henry-Schreiber, Tracy Billmeyer, Laci Kennedy and Michelle Hastings, all members of the Pink Ladies of Dubuque, discuss details for next month’s meeting at Eichman’s Bar & Grill in Sageville, Iowa. PHOTO CREDIT: JESSICA REILLY

On any given night, Brenda Henry-Schreiber can be found with her feet strategically planted and gaze steady as she prepares to throw the dart in her hand.

“I’ve been shooting for 32 years,” said the Asbury resident. “There are a number of good shooters in Dubuque who come home from dart tournaments with first-place trophies, myself included.”

Henry-Schreiber, along with a group of local women who also are avid dart throwers, recently founded a new target for their passion.

A Dubuque chapter of the Pink Ladies recently took aim. Formed in 2011 in Yankton, S.D., the nonprofit organization with chapters across the U.S. and Canada was established as a women’s dart league that hosts fundraisers to offer financial support for individuals and families facing cancer.

Candidates for funding are selected based on a referral from a medical professional, Henry-Schreiber said, though chapters also have provided tie blankets and other items to offer comfort and emotional support to cancer patients, as well.

“We’re not just a dart team,” she said. “So many of us have had our lives touched by cancer in some way, and our mission is to let people know that no one fights alone.”

That slogan is one Pink Ladies founder and National Dart Association President Randy Oliver said the organization’s members have taken to heart.

He lost his mother to brain cancer in 1997.

“A big part of my job is making the rounds to the bars during dart leagues,” Oliver said in a phone interview. “One of those evenings years ago, I was at one of the local bars and there was a group of women who were not the happiest because they had just been beaten in darts by a group of men. I suggested that maybe they start a women’s league.”

It was during one of those meetings to establish such a league that the sister of a member recently had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Quickly, the aim of the league shifted. But Oliver believed there was an opportunity for the organization to broaden its reach.

“I encouraged them to include any type of cancer because, then, you are impacting a larger number of people,” he said.

Since establishing, the Pink Ladies have provided more than $1.7 million in financial support through the fundraising efforts of its local chapters, Oliver said. Many well-established chapters annually give between $500 and $1,000 to a selected recipient.

“It warms my heart whenever I see a new chapter forming far from where we originated,” he said. “It means the world cares and is turning in a different direction. When this first started, I was coaching chapters and offering fundraising suggestions. But now, I’m learning from them. No one has compassion like these women do.”

Henry-Schreiber, whose sister-in-law is a cancer survivor, learned of the organization after participating in a dart tournament in Las Vegas and was inspired by the cause.

“With our local darts community and the need always there to support those dealing with cancer, it seemed like a good thing to bring to Dubuque,” she said.

The Pink Ladies Dubuque chapter hosted its debut dart league on Sept. 13. As a new chapter, Henry-Schreiber said she hopes to collaborate with other local organizations and that community members will feel compelled to offer support.

“That could mean joining our Wednesday night dart league, assisting with bake sales or other fundraisers, joining subcommittees or even just providing fundraising suggestions or opportunities,” she said. “Obviously, starting out, distributions to individuals may be smaller. But I hope, in the future, as we are able to raise more money and partner with area organizations, we can reach more individuals. We look forward to be able to help those with a need.”

Megan Gloss writes for the Telegraph Herald.

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