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Pink glove-clad Thomas employees raise their hands for dance prize

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The sound of Katy Perry's "Part of Me" prompted dancing in the halls at Thomas Health Systems for two weeks in September. Doctors, nurses, technicians and employees from nearly every department smiled and vamped it up as they produced an upbeat video with an inspirational message.

They submitted their creation to the Pink Glove Dance competition in the hope of winning a $10,000 first prize that they would contribute to the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Program for women who cannot afford care.

They face stiff competition. More than 260 organizations also entered the video contest, which is sponsored by Medline Industries, a medical supply company that lists pink surgical gloves among its products. The Thomas team is the only West Virginia hospital participating and needs as many votes as they can get.

Imaging and Breast Care Centers director Teresa Vickers, who coordinates the centers' annual October breast cancer awareness events, got the video camera rolling when she saw the 2011 Pink Glove Dance competition.

Participants could choose one of six songs to use in their video.

"I was fortunate to get to choose the song. The reason I chose it is that the words are very inspiring and appropriate for someone with breast cancer," Vickers said. "It talks about the fact that even though it's a part of you, there's another part that can never be taken away."

Not a dancer, Vickers asked Misti Janey Sprouse, owner of Brickhouse Cardio Club, for help with the choreography. Sprouse agreed. She and Brickhouse instructor Typhani Dawson choreographed the dance in about five hours.

They soon realized their job was just beginning. The two-week project involved one week of instruction and another of filming.

At first, only five or six departments responded to Vickers' call for dancers. Momentum grew as news of the fun spread through the hospital.

"Practically the entire hospital got into it. They all volunteered," Vickers said. "It was so motivational and inspiring for all of us at Thomas Health Systems to join together for this."

About 100 employees from 25 departments at both Thomas and Saint Francis locations volunteered their time during lunch hours and even on days off to learn the dance moves and make the video. Doctors who gathered for a weekly meeting took a break to film their part and added synchronized hand movements as they sat around a conference table.

They shot most of the footage in the departments in which employees worked. The video opens with a woman hearing a diagnosis of breast cancer. "Days like this I want to drive away," Perry sings as the woman is helped through a hospital corridor. Dancers in scrubs and pink gloves and boas welcome her through surgery, obstetrics, exam rooms and administrative offices, holding signs that read "Courage."

Breast cancer survivors within the hospital staff danced and held "I am a survivor" and "I Fight to Win" signs. Others delivered pink boxing-glove knockout punches. Plant operation and housekeeping employees added their moves.

Thomas Health System CEO Steve Dexter and Vice President Becky Brannon dance through a line of administrative assistants. Employees at the Saint Francis location gathered in the circle in front of the hospital to dance their part.

"We want them to know they're not alone in this. We are there for them," Vickers said.

Added to breast cancer awareness events like a walk and door-decorating contest, the video production sparked a burst of enthusiasm and team spirit among employees that surprised Vickers and others.

"I've never seen people here laughing and smiling so much. They were high-fiving each other. They absolutely had the best time," said Paige Johnson, director of marketing and communications.

They're well aware that the competition is stiff. Just after the website went live, Google had to shut it down because there was such a surge of traffic to the site from voters.

Win or lose, the employees will enjoy a benefit that arose from their enthusiastic support. The hospital added a free Zumba program during lunchtime, where employees can slip away, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes, and get a little cardio workout.

"I think that even if we don't win, just creating the video and being a part of it with the organization as a whole was great," Vickers said. "We showed that we could all join together as a team to help find a cure.

Reach Julie Robinson at julier@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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