Huddled together for warmth, the entire Whittell High School student body held formation, patiently waiting for the athletic director to find them.
The students all wore pink shirts that read, we heart Ms. B. The shirts were short sleeved and the temperature hovered in the 50s. No one complained.
Every single person was out there for a woman named Kathy Bluethman. They had come together on a frosty football field to form a breast cancer awareness ribbon. It was a simple gesture for a woman who has supported them through their toughest battles. They would now do the same for her.
"She's the most compassionate person I've ever met," cross-country coach Lindsay Wines said. "She makes key chains for every kid. She goes to all of their games, and I truly believe she cares for each and every one of them the exact same."
Bluethman is a true Warrior so it's actually fitting that she's athletic director at Whittell. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of the year, but refuses to let it slow her down. Refuse is the key word there because despite being urged to take time off, Bluethman won't leave her kids.
"You know what, they're my kids," Bluethman said. "When I'm at work, I don't think about my illness. I think about the work I can do. How can I help the kids do better in classes? Make sure they're doing well in their sports, and if they get in trouble they can come see me."
Usually the first to arrive and always the last to leave, Bluethman is more than an athletic director. She's a counselor, a mentor, and most of all friend.
Reccently, Bluethman discovered she will need to go back in for surgery and more treatment. It was disappointing news indeed because try as she might, Bluethman could not persuade doctors to put off the surgery until the fall sporting season had wrapped up.
A Whittell homegame without Bluethman in the wings will certainly be a foreign sight, but the athletic director's presence is felt around every corner of campus. It's felt in the pink decorations of support on the walls. It's felt in the pink clothes students wear in the halls and on the athletic field. It's the pink presents and flowers that kids and parents have packed in Bluethman's office.
"There is the most incredible support for breast cancer awareness at this school," Bluethman said. "I can never say thank you enough for their support."
Pink is definitely the new school color for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the playing field is no exception.
The girls volleyball team and boys soccer team wear pink jerseys to every October game. The initials KB are etched on the boys sleeves, and both the boys and girls soccer teams wear hot pink socks.
"We're just trying to show Kathy that's she's not alone in this," boys soccer coach Royal Good said. "We're right there with her, trying to support her and help her through tough times. We want to bring that bright spot into her day."
On the football field and cross-country trails, Whittell athletes wear pink socks and shoelaces. The football team will also have pink jerseys for its final home game against ROP on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m.
The middle school basketball team has pink backpacks with breast cancer ribbons drawn on them. The baseball team signed a pink bat for Bluethaman, and the softball girls decked out their hair and field in pink.
"Basically, my philosophy is this school has given me wings to make the Amazon fly," Bluethman said. "When I first got the diagnosis, I would say look I'm an Amazon with a spear to kill the cancer devil."
The sun was just beginning to stretch its fingers across the field when Bluethman found her kids. She had just returned from a breakfast kidnapping so the kids could form the ribbon without being seen.
She walked toward the field in disbelief and broke into tears as the kids started cheering. She stood on the stadium steps to take in the view. It was a strange sight to see Bluethman, who dedicates her life to putting kids in the spotlight, suddenly the center of attention.
"They brought tears to my eyes and strong wings to my back," Bluethman said. "I love them."