No one fights alone

By: 
Jamie Hult, Staff writer

The Bottoms Up Pink Ladies of Corson have raised more than $130,000 for local cancer patients since 2014. Submitted photo

Corson Pink Ladies president Jen Luitjens, Bottoms Up owner Troy Novak and vice president Rhonda Poncelet are holding a Thursday night raffle at the bar. The jackpot is up to $3,377, with a 1-in-28 chance of drawing the Queen of Hearts and winning. Jamie Hult/BV Journal

Corson Pink Ladies support cancer patients with darts and donations
 
Sometimes all it takes to unite a group of people is a common goal. 
For the Pink Ladies of Corson, that goal is fighting cancer, and the do it by playing darts. 
Since the Corson chapter started in 2014, they’ve given away more than $130,000. That’s a lot of darts and donations. 
The first Pink Ladies dart team started in Yankton. Before long chapters were cropping up across South Dakota and surrounding states. There’s even one in Canada. 
Surprisingly so, Corson’s chapter wasn’t started by a lady at all. Troy Novak, owner of Bottoms Up, went to a meeting of the Sioux Falls Pink Ladies and decided to get a group going at his bar. 
“We were so many girls locally that we needed to start our own chapter,” said vice president Rhonda Poncelet. 
Many of the Corson Pink Ladies have a personal connection that drives them. President Jen Luitjens lost a lifelong friend to cancer. Poncelet watched her sister battle it. Several of the Pink Ladies have had cancer themselves. 
That’s what keeps them going. “There’s no cure for cancer and there’s always someone who needs help,” Luitjens said. 
Sometimes the Ladies have a list of people who need their help. They never have to search. “It’s all word of mouth,” Luitjens said. 
The Corson chapter has 130 members. They’re very much a mixed bag, too, from teenagers to senior citizens, nurses to teachers to bankers. As far as dart skills, many members hadn’t tossed one until they joined. Most members live in the Corson area. 
The ladies’ weekly league fees go into a pot. That money is combined with corporate and private donations, fundraising and raffle ticket sales. On Sundays, the Pink Ladies present $500 checks to cancer patients at their home base, Bottoms Up. 
New members are always welcome. “Not everyone can always throw,” Luitjens explained.
There are several dart league sessions throughout the year, with a new one starting at the end of the month. The Pink Ladies also compete in the state tournament Oct. 13-15 and hold several major fundraisers, including a New Year’s dart tournament, a poker run in June and an outdoor dart tournament in August. They’re currently conducting their weekly Chase the Queen of Hearts raffle. They’ve also partnered with Hegg Realty for 10 percent of home sales to go to families fighting cancer.
Best of all are the people they’ve met. 
“We’ve had some interesting stories where people were so touched that they felt they wanted to pay it forward,” Luitjens said. “Some of them moved and put it on their bucket list to pay us back double.”
The Pink Ladies have helped toddlers to senior citizens fighting cancer, and if the patient isn’t able to come to Bottoms Up for the presentation, the Ladies go to them.
“We do home visits,” Luitjens said. “We’d hop on the bus and Troy would take you there and we’d sit with them on their front porch.”
The Ladies have made lifelong friends playing darts, too, Poncelet pointed out. 
“It just puts you with people you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to meet,” Poncelet said. “It’s kind of like a girls’ night out with a purpose.”
In addition to check donations, the Pink Ladies give away tie knot blankets, which many of their kids help make to make. 
Their motto remains “No one fights alone,” and they’re there for each other, too. Cancer affects so many, Poncelet said. 
“Something that always touches me – it’s not a matter of if but when. We just have this thought … that’s why we’re here to support each other in a time of need.”

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