By Emily Williams
When the American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink campaign came to a close in Birmingham on March 5, each of the campaign ambassadors received a pink gift.
Andrew Gnann, president of St. Vincent’s Birmingham and St. Vincent’s Chilton, received a hot pink pie server. Its handle was adorned with a number of pink rhinestones.
“They gave us each a small gift in line (with) our campaigns,” Gnann said.
The rose-colored token of gratitude, presented during a wrap party at Cahaba Brewing Company, was inspired by his “Pie in the Face” campaign tactic.
During February, photos of a handful of hospital managers and executives, including Gnann, trickled throughout the hospital along with donation envelopes.
“Whoever had the most money put into their envelope got pied in the face,” he said. “Of course, it was me.”
On pie day, he did not sit alone. He was joined by a few of his coworkers, including Amy Shelton, chief nurse and vice president of patient care services; Shannon Scaturro, vice president of operations; and Madonna Nichols, director of women’s services, among others.
“It all sounds fun until you have to do it, and then it becomes a fun, sticky mess,” he said.
Gnann and his crew were pied by other staff members, each making a $5 donation to get to smash the confection in an administrator’s face.
“People had a good time,” Gnann said. “We were covered in pie, whipped cream and whatnot and had to be hosed off. It was one of those situations where you had to plan to go home afterwards, because, as much as you got to clean it off, you were just sticky.”
Gnann was invited to participate in the annual campaign after joining the board for the American Cancer Society’s Central Alabama chapter.
In addition to fundraising, ambassadors were required to wear pink every day in February, not so difficult a task for Gnann.
“As a guy, I’m lucky. Right?” he said. “I can just change a tie out.
“I actually had a pretty solid number of ties with some sort of pink in it, I wore pink socks and, of course, the American Cancer Society gave us a pin to wear if we couldn’t wear pink that day.”
One of the only conflicts in February was the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Day, but it was nothing that a quick costume change couldn’t solve.
“I think I put on a red tie for a photo shoot and then put my pink right back on,” he said.
Though the disease has not affected him personally, breast cancer awareness and treatment has had a distinct impact in his career.
“It certainly fits in line with our mission and the services we provide here at St. Vincent’s,” he said.
St. Vincent’s Bruno Cancer Center serves cancer patients in the hospital and in its outpatient clinics. According to Gnann, breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer treated in the center.
“We have a lot of surgeons here whose expertise … they solely focus on breast surgery, whether it’s removal of tumors and cancer, reconstruction or plastics,” he said. “So, we have a big connection to that as a ministry.”
When it came time for Gnann to raise money, fellow hospital staff were there to lend support. He said it is easy to support an organization whose impact can be seen locally.
“Our patients stay at Hope Lodge, and our patients get transportation to the Bruno Cancer Center via the relationship that the American Cancer Society has with Mercedes Benz,” he said. “So, we actually see our patients benefit from it, which is a really unique thing.”
Throughout February, the hospital’s retail outlets – cafeterias, gift shops and such – sold pink hearts for $1, which the donor could sign. Those hearts were then hung on the walls of the hospital. In addition, the lobby shop organized a day when 15% of the proceeds from every pink item sold were donated to his campaign.
When the month closed out, he was able to donate $3,662 to ACS, well over his goal of $2,500. In addition, the total campaign brought in more than $74,500.
“In a month’s time, raising that amount of money is pretty incredible,” Gnann said.