Tanya Snyder, breast cancer survivor and wife of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, has been instrumental in creating the "THINK PINK" program that is part of many NFL teams' Breast Cancer Awareness programming. Her efforts on "THINK PINK" was one of many inspirations from around the league that was instrumental in the NFL's creation of the "A Crucial Catch" campaign.
Since her husband bought the team, Tanya Snyder has been involved with the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, which has started the franchise's annual All-Stars Survivors Celebration to honor breast cancer survivors.
This week, she participated in an email interview with NFL Evolution contributing editor Bill Bradley, discussing the origins of "THINK PINK," how it has caught on around the league and what it means to be a breast cancer survivor.
I understand you are heavily involved in the family’s charity efforts. What are the charities you are working on right now?
The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation. When Dan Snyder purchased the team in 1999, a group of women from Zeta Tau Alpha, an alumni group in Northern Virginia, came up with an idea for an outreach program for breast cancer, handing out pink ribbons. So, in October of 1999, the "THINK PINK" campaign within the NFL started. It was driven by a simple concept of one ribbon at a time, one fan at a time. We handed out 8,000 handmade ribbons the first year within the Redskins.
When you were diagnosed with breast cancer, you put yourself in the spotlight to raise awareness for the disease. What was it like to be a spokesperson so soon after dealing with the diagnosis and recovery?
It was natural progression to continue with the "Think Pink" campaign. Being an example for my daughters and being able to hopefully be able to inspire other women and to be inspired by them and to give hope.
How are you still involved in breast cancer awareness?
(Earlier this week) we had an amazing event. One of our (former) players, Chris Cooley, had an experience with his mom. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and through the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation we had our sixth All-Star Survivor's Celebration. We had 20 women who are currently battling breast cancer at the All-Star Survivor Celebration ... and it was a very, very inspirational event. Chris Cooley was there and he talked about how he pulled this event together on behalf of his mother and how to help her. We had ... a day of fun and pampering. We had a fantastic time.
Your work on the "THINK PINK" campaign was very instrumental in sparking the entire league to take part. How does it make you feel that you’ve had such an impact on the field with this fight?
It is so meaningful that it is really difficult to put into words to see the power of "A Crucial Catch" and to see the sea of pink on the football field. To see 200-pound lineman making a difference, you know people are watching and they are asking themselves. We hear many, many stories now that women tell about the crucial catch that they have experienced. I couldn't be more proud personally and more proud to be a part of the NFL.
As both of your daughters are now teenagers, have you talked about how your recovery and what you have accomplished?
Yes, we talk about the concerns. We talk about the day-to-day things that we do to make sure that we're healthy. We make sure that they understand what to do for preventive care. Part of recovery is certainly giving back and my daughters are very actively involved within the Charitable Foundation, especially in the month of October. During the "THINK PINK" and "A Crucial Catch," they will be handing out ribbons to 8,000 fans -- my daughters and my son. I am very proud that they are actively involved and they understand that it is just as important to give back to the cause.
What do women say to you during your involvement in breast awareness campaigns? Do they know about the road you have traveled?
I am able to hear experiences that women share. They thank me and are very glad of the efforts. I am just honored to be a part of it and, most importantly, to hear the thank you and to hear that it's definitely making a difference.
I understand you have been cancer free for at least five years. That’s an important milestone for many cancer survivors. Was there a sense of relief you passed that marker?
Yes, it's a very big milestone and I think it's that first step in that takes a sense of relief off your shoulder. I think breast cancer is never anything you forget about, but it's certainly gives you such a sense of relief that it's a great first milestone.
Is there anything you would like to add as the NFL concludes its "A Crucial Catch" campaign this weekend?
As we enter the 15th "THINK PINK" campaign, we are (at) 5 million ribbons and I am extremely proud of that. I just want to remind everybody to be an advocate for yourself, "THINK PINK" and make "A Crucial Catch." Annual screenings save lives.