Q&A: Tammy Byrne, ‘17, Dig Pink Club founder


The Catalyst / Photo courtesy of Tammy Byrne

Tammy Byrne, 17′, at Dig Pink volleyball game

The Catalyst (TC): What is a memory you have from the Dig Pink Game or the fundraisers that you participated in?

Tammy Byrne (TB): The biggest memory from the Dig Pink Club was the Walk for Life that we did together. So basically a group of us from the school and some family and friends decided to join in on the walk. For 24 hours, we stayed at this high school and everyone basically had to be walking at some point in that 24 hours. It was the first time I ever experienced that type of fundraiser which was such a big deal. It was so fun and just so heartwarming to see everyone come out and support even if they only came for like, an hour or two. But then Sara Eckles, who helped me a lot with the club, was there for the full 24 hours. That was the best memory with the club. I think we raised over $5,000 just between the small club.

Then the Dig Pink games were the biggest crowds we’d ever have. Not only was it so amazing to see everyone come out and support us for the volleyball team, but it was so great that it was for a good cause and all the proceeds went to breast cancer awareness. It was always so emotional for me right, so if we lost the game that was like the worst thing in the world. I think we lost probably two out of the three Dig Pink games, but all I have is fond memories from it.

TC: What inspired you to start the Dig Pink Club at NDB?

TB: I knew we always had some kind of breast cancer game before I came to Notre Dame. And I always loved going to those and thought it was super fun. But when I got to the school, I realized there wasn’t really a club. Even the games weren’t that big of a deal. So once I saw there was that opening or that need for it, I tried to jump on it freshman year. But I was so overwhelmed being a freshman that I didn’t quite get to it. So sophomore year, I finally applied to start the club, got accepted and then had over 100 girls from the school join. It was one of the biggest clubs at the time and everyone just loved helping out. Especially the games, obviously. Since October was during the volleyball season that was huge and also volleyball meant so much to me, so it was really great. My thought was that there was already a game for it, so why not make it as big as possible? It progressed so much that by senior year, we had the whole school dance right after the volleyball game, which I’d never seen done before. So it was super fun.

Tammy Byrne at an NDB Dig Pink volleyball game supporting breast cancer awareness. (The Catalyst / Photo courtesy of Tammy Byrne)

TC: Why did you come up with the idea to start the Dig Pink club?

TB: My mom always meant so much to me and she never got to see me play volleyball. So I always played for her of course and I would always wear a pink ribbon in my hair when I played. I knew everyone around me supported me and also wanted to help out. So I think it was just perfect timing.

TC: What was your main goal that you hoped to accomplish?

TB: The goal was just to spread awareness. And then also just to have more people come to the games for volleyball. It was so fun to have that one big game that the whole school would come together for and not just to see us play, but to have all the proceeds from the game go to breast cancer awareness. Which might not seem like a lot, but year after year, it’s something that the school has really taken upon themselves now. Even after I left, my dad and my aunt still go to every single Dig Pink Game and they see it. So it’s so nice to see that continued legacy.

TC: How did your mom have an impact on your life and also your time at NDB?

TB: My mom [Carol Byrne] got cancer the year I was born, so I only ever knew her as being sick. I always knew there was a chance she was going to pass away. So it was like, live every moment to the fullest you know? She still worked the entire time that she was sick. She wasn’t one of those people that was like ‘I’m just gonna stay at home and spend my time just laying around feeling sorry for myself’. She worked high up in Wells Fargo in San Francisco so she had really pushed herself the entire time, while feeling horrible every single day. But then she’d come home and just have a huge smile on her face and would be so happy to be home with us. Every chance she got it was making memories for me, just having a good time all the time. Not trying to make anything sad, obviously. Even though she was so sick she was always just beaming with light. She really just taught me a lot even though I only had nine years with her. I basically modeled my life off of her and then at Notre Dame I just always played volleyball for her and always tried my best for her.

TC: Who was your mentor or support system when establishing Dig Pink Club?

TB: I was around Mrs. Yule [Former Director of Student Life and Leadership] quite a bit and she really helped me. And Mr. Currier [Former English teacher] also really helped me. But the two of them just really helped me stay motivated and even when it was tough, they would really help me through. Also with all the design, I had no idea what to do with fundraising since I’d never done it before. So they really helped me get established and get everything for the Walk for Life set. They all just kind of pushed me along and always supported me if I was having a really hard day or anything like that.


Tammy Byrne with her mother, Carol Byrne. (The Catalyst / Photo courtesy of Tammy Byrne)

TC: What are you most proud of looking back on the legacy you created at NDB?

TB: I think the legacy is what I’m most proud of, because I was actually able to leave an impact. I did a lot of other things right. I helped my volleyball team win a state championship, I had good grades and I was on ASB. I did all these other things but Dig Pink is the thing that people really remember me for. And the fact that it’s still going even if my name is not tied to it. The fact that it’s still such a big deal is such an accomplishment. Five years later after I graduate, it’s just so heartwarming. Every time I watch the videos on my phone, I’m sitting there and trying to watch everyone’s stories, even though I’m down here in San Diego. Just being able to see girls, four or five years later, enjoy it like I did and care about it like I did, is really big. Especially right after I graduated, the girls that picked it up on the volleyball team and really took it under their wing by texting me, asking me questions and sending me photos was great. It was just so sweet to have them think of me and want to carry it on.

TC: How have you been continuing to bring awareness to breast cancer outside of NDB?

TB: I still donate every year. My dad and my aunt go to the games and we always make a donation to Notre Dame to be able to donate to breast cancer awareness. And then just honestly, just posting about breast cancer awareness. And just trying to spread the word whenever you can. Like I have friends that know no one that has had cancer before. And they just don’t realize that you’re supposed to go get your breast checked every three months or every six months. So just being able to spread it even though I don’t have as much reach as I used to, obviously. But I think being able to leave that legacy I know that it’s continuing on, even though I’m not there, so it’s still reaching people without me.