IndyCar driver Pippa Mann's breast cancer awareness efforts recognized in 'The List'
Anyone who has watched the Indianapolis 500 the past few years knows Pippa Mann as the upbeat British driver whose pink car, fire suit and helmet bring attention to Susan G. Komen and the fight against breast cancer.
What they may not know is that Mann's pink racing program is authentically about the cause and not merely forging partnerships to get the financing needed to race.
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Susan G. Komen has kicked off a "More Than Pink" campaign and introduced "The List," a group of 30 "everyday heroes, scientists, advocates, community leaders, athletes, musicians and public figures" who are being honored for their impact in working with women and men facing breast cancer.
Mann has been so recognized, along with the likes of Dr. Mary-Claire King (discoverer of the genetic link for increased breast cancer risk), Dr. V. Craig Jordan (the "Father of Tamoxifen"), former first ladies Laura Bush and Betty Ford; Princess Dina Mired of Jordan and others.
Other athletes recognized are boxing's Oscar De La Hoya, who lost his mother to breast cancer in 1990, football star DeAngelo Williams, who lost his mother and four aunts to breast cancer, WWE superstar John Cena and Special Olympian Olivia Quigley, who won two gold medals and one silver medal while still in treatment for breast cancer at the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles. (See the full list here).
"There are some truly incredible people on this list, some really inspiring people, and to be mentioned in the same sort of sentence as them, that really means a huge amount to me," said Mann, 33, a five-time Indy 500 starter who finished a career-best 18th this May.
Mann says she was first exposed to the harsh reality of breast cancer as a young girl in England, when it claimed her grandmother, and then again as a teenager when it took her aunt.
"I was living abroad at the time, but it was at her funeral that my sisters, who were around 20 years older than me and in their 30s at the time, sort of pulled me aside and said, 'Hey, this has happened twice now in our family, so this is something that you need to be really aware of as you are growing up,'" Mann recalled.
By 2009, Mann had moved to the United States and was trying to move up to IndyCar racing. She watched the season finale at Homestead, where Sarah Fisher, a driver she admired, turned her car pink in support of Susan G. Komen.
"It was something I'd never seen done before at that level of racing, and it really touched me," Mann said. "However, Sarah stopped driving, and she transitioned to a team owner, and we went for several years where no one was really doing anything. So you have these thoughts of, 'Well, someone should do something.' And then, at some point, you make the connection of, 'Well, why shouldn't it be me?' "
Mann started by taking her classic red and yellow helmet, turning all the red parts pink, and letting her local Susan G. Komen affiliate auction it off after the race to raise money. That turned into the full-fledged pink racing campaign Mann has coordinated with Dale Coyne Racing for the past three Indy 500s.
It's a common misconception that Susan G. Komen sponsors the race car.
"It's really important that people understand that Susan G. Komen does not spend money on a racing program," Mann said. "That would not be appropriate use of their funds. Effectively, Dale Coyne Racing makes an in-kind donation to them of that space on the racing car, and ... we use this racing program to go out and raise money for them."
The "More than Pink" campaign asserts that pink is more than a color and that it recognizes the difference each person is making in the fight against the most frequently diagnosed cancer worldwide. The campaign comes with a "Bold Goal" of reducing cancer deaths in the United States by 50 percent (from 40,000) within the next decade.
As a member of "The List," Mann will be out and about during October, spreading the "More than Pink" message through broadcast and social media networks.
"The more I've gotten involved in this community, not only [home] in Indianapolis, but throughout the U.S., the more people I've been touched by," Mann says. "I've met some really incredible and inspiring men and women through this journey. I've heard some really wonderful stories. At the same time, I'm meeting women my own age who are going through this, and one of the women I met who is my own age and was living with metastatic breast cancer passed away this April before the race. She was one of the names I ran in the cockpit of my car at this year's Indianapolis 500.
"So I really want to make sure I can stay involved in this community as much and for as long as I can."