PARKER, Colo. – Thousands of teal flamingos are showing up in yards across the country in a movement to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. It started in Parker when Jo Ann Nied-Washburn passed away from the disease on December 7.
Jo’s good friend, Elizabeth Powers was with her in her last days. Elizabeth said, “As I was sitting next to her, holding her hand, she said, ‘Just do me one last favor when I pass away.’ She said, ‘When I die, put a blue or teal flamingo in your yard for me.’ I said, ‘You got it.’ She said, ‘I just want to look down from heaven and see teal flamingos everywhere.’” So Elizabeth went to work, buying pink flamingos and painting them teal.
The idea behind the flamingos goes back to a prank these moms used to play on each other. Elizabeth said, “My best friend Mary and I used to run around the neighborhood and ding dong ditch with pink flamingos and leave a bottle of wine. Jo thought it was the most fun thing in the world. When Jo got diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it was her idea to get a bunch of pink flamingos and paint them teal and then put them in our girlfriends yards to raise awareness.”
She had no idea it would catch on so quickly. Elizabeth said, “Honestly, if I had more time, we would have 5-thousand flamingos everywhere. We kinda had to run out to more stores to figure out how to get more flamingos in because this turned out to be much bigger than I ever imagined.”
In addition to hundreds in their neighborhood, people from California to Vermont to Jo’s hometown of Pittsburgh and Florida have posted pictures on Facebook of their teal flamingos. Elizabeth said, “Basically what we call it now is Jo’s Flamingos. We’ve turned it into a fundraiser, and all the proceeds go to Jo Ann’s husband and two boys.” Some of the flamingos in Jo’s yard have names on them of families that live out of state that wanted to contribute.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, about 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and 14,070 women will die of ovarian cancer in the United States. Elizabeth said, “We just ask if you have any symptoms at all, please go get checked early.” For more information about risk factors and symptoms visit cancer.org.
Jo was a well known chef, and people from around the country have been touched by her death. Her friends say she was a remarkable, inspiring woman who had a smile that could light up a room. Elizabeth said, “I think she’s gonna be able to do a lot even though she is not here in body. I know for sure she is up there laughing because of all these flamingos and that she made me do this.”
If you would like to order a teal flamingo, you can contact Elizabeth.
Friends have set up scholarship funds for Jo’s two children.