Things were hitting a little too close to home for Canyon Del Oro junior Samantha Nettling.

When Nettling was nine-years-old, her mother’s best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and each subsequent year it seemed someone she knew was affected.

As a freshman, Nettling also saw her best friend’s mother diagnosed.

“That was scary,” said Nettling. “It wasn’t just someone she knew of, it was her mother, and she was someone that I had grown up knowing too.”

That was enough for Nettling to take action, and she did so by forming the Pink Dorados, a group originally made up of 30 members of her softball team and their parents.

The mission? Raise breast cancer awareness through advocacy and fundraising.

Now, three years into the program, the Pink Dorados has more than quadrupled in members, currently with 130.

“Last year we opened it up to the entire school,” said Nettling. “It’s now made up of athletes, band members, other groups, and anyone who is part of the CDO community or is interested in supporting our cause.”

In 2011, the Pink Dorados hosted, among other events, a basketball game, softball game and track meet specifically designed to get the word out. And, for someone who has done her research as Nettling has, that message is one that comes with a harsh reality.

“This is something that people don’t really realize, but breast cancer affects one in eight women,” said Nettling. When I look around at the students in a classroom, if 20 of them are female, two to three of those girls will be affected by breast cancer at some point in their lives. It’s really unbelievable to comprehend.”

With such staggering numbers, the efforts made by the Pink Dorados are only that much more validated. In the first year of the Pink Dorados, group members raised $1,000. Last year, the group set a goal of $3,000, only to exceed that number by $1,000.

“For us to raise $4,000, that’s huge, but we’re still just scratching the surface,” said Nettling. “After I graduate, I hope this is something CDO continues, and I hope the CDO community stays involved. For me to be the starter of this program – that’s huge to me. It’s special to see what it’s become.”

Planet Smoothie has also jumped on board with the Pink Dorados, offering free smoothies for every paid registration for the Pink Dorados team’s Race for the Cure.

Last year, CDO won the High School Challenge.

Nettling is taking her efforts a step further this year, making a movie about breast cancer awareness for her film class.

Bill Nettling, Samantha’s father and Parent Advisor for the Pink Dorados, said he and his wife are happy to see the program become what it is today.

“Of course, as parents, Julie and I are extremely proud of her and all of her Pink Dorado teammates,” he said. “Sammy has been fortunate to have been surrounded by some very positive older role models. From her brother Ray and his friends, to her older softball teammates, she has had great mentors. When you combine that influence with the tremendous peer group of student athletes at CDO, you have a very powerful message. Of course, I am a biased yet proud dad.”

For more information on becoming a member of the Pink Dorados, email Sammy Nettling at, Hannah Sullivan at, or Bill Nettling at

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