They have a hashtag and a mission: to raise awareness about breast health and the importance of annual mammograms.

On Oct. 1, Mather Hospital and businesses all over the Port Jefferson area turned on their pink lights to kick off Paint Port Pink, a month-long event spearheaded by the hospital that coincides with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which also takes place in October.

Businesses hung signs, draped pink lights, and offered specials to raise money for Fund for the Uninsured, a grant program at Mather’s Fortunato Breast Health Center that provides no-cost or discounted mammography screenings.

The hashtag is #paintportpink.

“[Paint Port Pink] started in 2015,” explained Stuart Vincent, Mather Hospital’s director of public relations. “It grew out of a previous event for 20 years called Victory Day.”

Victory Day was an annual event hosted by Fortunato Breast Health Center for all breast cancer survivors. There was a walk, tents, events, food, music, sometimes tears, inspiration, and most of all celebration.

After two decades, Vincent said that the hospital decided to put the focus more on the local population and the immediate area, for people who would be more likely to go to the Fortunato Breast Health Center for treatment and regular checkups.

Out of Victory Day, the month-long Paint Port Pink was born.

According to Vincent, the Fortunato Breast Health Center performs 12-14,000 breast screenings every single year. Adding to their capacity to serve the community, the center purchased two 3D mammography units last year.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s cancer.net website reports that breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. Since 1989, fatalities due to breast cancer have steadily decreased, which the site attributes to early detection and treatment improvements.

According to the most current data available provided by a representative at Northwell Health-the healthcare conglomerate that runs Mather Hospital — there were 16,359 breast cancer cases reported in New York State in 2015. From 2011- 2015 there was an average of 1,316 cases per year reported in Suffolk County.

Those sobering numbers are one reason Paint Port Pink has been so fully embraced by the community.

They have 200 partners this year mostly consisting of local businesses.

Every year in September, the hospital goes out into Port Jefferson and surrounding towns including Port Jeff Station, Miller Place and Mount Sinai handing out pink lights and flags. The Village of Port Jefferson lights up Village Hall and allows the hospital to decorate the village and place a banner across Main Street to advertise Paint Port Pink. 

Vincent said that the lights look great at night and help to raise awareness, which is the primary focus of Paint Port Pink. Businesses also run month-long specials to help raise money to support the fund for the uninsured.

Along with the various events, Mather invited the community to win pink-themed contests. Partners who decorated their windows sent in a picture of their display to the hospital to enter a window decorating contest. Mather also held a Pink Your Pumpkin contest again this year where participants decorated a pumpkin they picked up at a local farm or craft store and then submitted a photo to enter to win prizes.

On Friday, Oct. 18, they wore pink at Mather Hospital for Wear Pink Day, which this year coincides with World Mammography Day. People are encouraged to post their photos from Wear Pink Day at their own businesses on social media and use the #paintportpink hashtag.

While Paint Port Pink is a local phenomenon, the idea has spread throughout the Northwell network and across Long Island. Inspired by Mather Hospital’s event, this year Northwell Health’s Imbert Cancer Center, Southside Hospital, and Great South Bay Imaging partnered with local businesses on Main Street from East Islip to Babylon for their inaugural event called Pink by the Bay. Click here for our coverage of that event.

Though celebratory in nature, Paint Port Pink’s main focus is still to raise awareness of breast cancer, provide educational information, and foster solidarity in the community.

“It combes fun with a very serious purpose,” Vincent said.

Below is a list of the ongoing specials that local businesses have been running all month to support Paint Port Pink

  • Amazing Olive: $1 donated for every extra virgin olive oil sold during October
  • Chick-fil-a: $1 from every shake during the month of October donated
  • Cutting Hut: Pink Hair Extensions for every $10, $5 goes to us
  • Diamond Jewelers: 10% of anything pink will be donated
  • Holiday Inn Express: Pink room fundraiser – prepay for a room that will be used by a family staying there to get breast cancer care at Mather or Stony Brook
  • Hour Escape Rooms: A portion of all bookings made in October will be donated along with a special raffle
  • Luck Soap: 40% of each Pink Ribbon Soap sold in October
  • Mather Hospital Gift Shop: Pink Sale Lobby
  • Mather Hospital Thrift Shop: Pink Sale Lobby
  • PJ Cinemas: Paint Port Pink ad at PJ Cinemas for the month of October
  • Port Bistro & Pub: Donation box at hostess station – they will match
  • Port Jeff Brewing: Selling “Pink” dog treats made with spent grain
  • Spa St. Tropez: Enjoy a complimentary sugar scrub on hands or feet with your donation to the Fortunato Breast Health Center
  • Tapestry Salon: Percentage of Pink Hair extension donated (10/1-31)
  • The Secret Garden: $5 from every purchase Pretty in Pink Loose Tea in Oct.
  • The Soap Box: 10% off pink bath bombs & pink soap
  • Theatre Three Productions: 20% discount on tickets purchased in October if you mention PPP
  • Yogo Delish: Donation box at the register – they will match

For more information about Paint Port Pink, visist matherhospital.org/pink or call (631) 476-2723.

prior coverage

Top: 2019 Wear Pink Day at Mather Hospital courtesy of Mather Hospital.