Massapequa High School students Sarah and Danielle Whelan enjoyed fond memories of their aunt, Beth Taylor, while taking part in the school’s homecoming celebration Saturday.
The sisters, who are members of the field hockey team, recently played in their "Think Pink" game; every sports team in the district plays one game in October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Taylor died of breast cancer five years ago, but her impacts on Sarah and Danielle continue to this day.
"She was always very happy and creative," said Sarah, a 17-year-old senior. "She told me to do what I wanted to do even if I made mistakes along the way."
Sarah has done just that, from being crowned homecoming queen Saturday to earning a brown belt in karate -- something Danielle has also achieved. Their father, Steve Whelan, explains that when his daughters’ grandparents moved away from Long Island, Taylor and her husband Robert -- or “Uncle Bob” -- filled some of that role.
“She was instrumental in their upbringing,” Whelan said of what Taylor provided to Sarah, Danielle and his youngest daughter, 12-year-old Jenna, a seventh-grader in the district.
"I was very young, so it was hard for me," said Danielle, a 14-year-old sophomore and member of the school’s marching band color guard, of losing her aunt. "She was always there for us and was the sweetest person."
Sarah and Danielle were able to honor their aunt by competing in the "Think Pink” game, an initiative that was started 10 years ago by the volleyball team, according to Massapequa athletic director John Piropato. By moving on with life in a positive way, they’ve also honored the strength Taylor showed that Sarah so admired.
"She never let the cancer stop her," she said. "She was always so easy to talk to and I told her everything."
Sarah noted the irony that although cancer is awful, it connects people.
"All the breast cancer awareness activities in the school brings us together,” she said, “because we are all affected by it in some way."