PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- October is a month full of color in Maine as the leaves and seasons change, but the color that seems to be most prominent is pink as October is breast cancer awareness month.
Everything from energy shots to automobiles comes wrapped and covered in pink ribbons, either physically or figuratively, but that doesn't mean the sale of those products is benefiting breast cancer research or survivors.
"Any company can put a pink ribbon on any product and not intentionally mislead you, but the money is going to the company and not towards a charitable breast cancer foundation," warned Susan Clifford, senior director of communications, strategy and integration for the American Cancer Society. "We recommend that people do their homework and it is not just breast cancer, it is any other cancer fundraiser."
For the past seven years, the Portland Pirates have hosted an annual Pink in the Rink hockey game to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. The players wore special pink jerseys and welcomed survivors onto the ice to be recognized and to drop the ceremonial puck.
The team sold special 'Pink Packs' of tickets and raffled off a team signed jersey, raising more than $2500 for the American Cancer Society's fund raising event, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.
In years past, a portion of proceeds from the game worn jerseys that are auctioned off after the game was also donated to charity, but not this year.
"Circumstances this year dictated that wasn't going to be the case," explained Chris Knoblock, the Pirates' director of communications and media relations. "We have tried to make that as clear as possible when dealing with the public."
"If you look on our website, we've made sure to make that explicit. On the eBay auctions that are going on right now, that has been made explicit as well," added Knoblock. "Our goal with this year's event specifically, as with every other Pink in the Rink event, is to create the awareness about the cause and bring people together to support the cause. We think we have done a successful job with that."
While the team's auction does not mention any of the proceeds from the sale of the jerseys goes to charity, the team admits the possibility exists that people interested in buying one might think the money is for charity.
"There is a connotation when you wear a branded jersey that the money is going to a cause, but the real thing is we've never made that connection," said Knoblock. "That connection has been made by others and we have done our best to make sure that everyone who puts a bid down, who is made aware of what we are doing, knows that this is where their money is going and that we are upfront and honest with them in everything we've done. We certainly don't want people to be mistaken when they bid on a jersey."
Clifford says the assumption that pink branded items are to benefit breast cancer research and survivors is a common one.
"Sometimes you think what you are buying at some of these events, all the money is going to some sort of the charity, when in fact it is not really included," she said.
"Companies need to make money as well, but we would just urge some accountability and transparency by these organizations to make sure that people understand without having to dig for themselves to find out the real answer," she added.
She recommends people ask questions and do their homework to find out how much money, if any, is going to a charitable foundation when you make a purchase or donation.
"There is an enormous amount of pink products on the market in October, and we just want you to take a moment to take a look at the tag, see what company it is benefiting, and then perhaps research the company to make sure they're a reputable charitable foundation," she advised. "Actually ask somebody at the store where you are buying the product, 'do you know who it benefits? Is it actually benefiting somebody? Is it something with a pink ribbon on it because that is the time of month that it is in October?'"