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Detroit — Michigan first lady Sue Snyder donned a bright pink construction helmet and safety jacket as she cut a pink ribbon, christening the nation’s 10th “Ride the Pink Elevator” campaign to raise money benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research.

After a few opening remarks, Snyder joined about a dozen people who crowded into the bright pink outdoor construction elevator, embarking on a bumpy ride to the 11th floor of a future downtown Detroit apartment building at 150 Michigan Ave., next to the Westin Book Cadillac and across from American and Lafayette Coney Islands.

Snyder operated the elevator as it rose into the Detroit sky.

The bright pink industrial elevator was delivered March 21 to the building, currently dubbed “The Griswold.” It will remain in place until January or February of next year, according to John Rakolta Jr., chairman and CEO of Walbridge Construction, which is overseeing the building’s rehab while celebrating its 100th anniversary in Detroit. The building is owned by the Roxbury Group and will feature 80 apartments on 16 floors, with glass walls and corner balconies.

The initiative will primarily raise money through fundraisers and donations from Walbridge employees, as well as those who work with subcontractors and suppliers on the site. In all, around 30 companies and 400 employees will work on the site — all possible donation sources.

“We look at these job sites as kind of a coral shelf; it’s very organic,” said Roger Brummett, executive vice president of Metro Elevator Co. Inc., which installed the special lift. “But that doesn’t mean that someone from the community can’t make a contribution.”

Members of the public can click here to contribute to the pink elevator project.

The Detroit project is off to a good start, Metro Elevator public relations director Rachelle Brown-Brummett said. Almost $13,000 was raised at a two-hour opening reception Tuesday evening.

Sue Snyder has been involved from the start, organizers said.

“She’s a huge advocate of ours,” Brown-Brummett said. “She was at the (country’s) very first pink elevator in Ann Arbor.”

That elevator, installed in January of 2015, was the source of nearly $18,000 in donations, she said. Nationwide, 10 pink elevators have reached nearly six figures in donations, including funds from the Michigan Avenue project. Across Michigan, four projects — in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Mount Clemens and Detroit — have raised more than $32,000.

Of the money raised, 25 percent is sent to the national Susan G. Komen organization for breast cancer research, while 75 percent stays local for grants toward organizations that provide breast cancer screening, education and treatment.

All Metro Elevator lifts are bright pink, matching the breast cancer awareness color, Brown-Brummett said. If a company declines to participate in fundraising efforts, they still get a pink elevator that helps raise awareness in the community.

“Some elevators bring awareness and funds, some just bring awareness,” she said, marketing it as a win-win situation.

Brown-Brummett’s husband agreed.

“This project in general is very important to the renaissance of Detroit,” Roger Brummett said during opening remarks before the ribbon cutting. “Just watch the cars slow down, trying to figure out what this pink elevator is all about.”

Rakolta, the chairman and CEO of Walbridge, said it was a no-brainer to get his company involved. With a wife, three daughters, three sisters, four sisters-in-law and a grandmother, Rakolta felt he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to bring both money and awareness to breast cancer research.

“The elevator was always going to be there,” he said of his site’s need for the equipment. “We just thought that tying in our 100th anniversary and the need to cure breast cancer, it seems like a good idea. The whole idea of tying to help out women, I don’t know what else I can say.”

Before heading outside for the elevator’s christening, project manager Haitham Sarsam briefed the group on safety measures while also touching on the subject of breast cancer itself.

“Everybody knows someone” affected by the disease, he said. “It’s a big impact. It’s sad, but it’s true.”

During opening remarks, Snyder shared her own battle, which began after finding a lump over 12 years ago.

“The opportunity to be here, alive and healthy, is something I do not take for granted,” she said. “I have two daughters and I think about their futures often.”

Snyder, whose mother died of the disease more than 30 years ago and whose grandmother also battled it, praised the pink elevator project.

“I cannot think of a bigger or brighter way to highlight this cause,” she said. “There are so many great things happening in Detroit, and today we celebrate one more.”

After the event, Snyder answered a few related questions for media, without addressing backlash from on-going crises in Flint’s water and Detroit’s school system, among others. A spokeswoman said the goal was to keep attention on breast cancer awareness.

“We’ve got some other ones in the works for Detroit,” Snyder said after the event, hinting at future pink elevators in the city. “To see all this going on, it’s bringing such great awareness.”

Katrina Studvent, director of Detroit’s Komen Race for the Cure and a 10-year cancer survivor, linked the elevator itself to growing cancer awareness.

“We’re taking the breast cancer fight to new heights with this elevator,” she said.

HFournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier

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