All throughout the day Wednesday, people kept coming, and kept painting.

Some painted names, others simple messages of support.

There was an elaborate Gilda's Club logo. "Duck Cancer" was written above the Mallards' logo at center ice.

"Miss you" stood out, its power in its simplicity.

It's been six years since the Quad-City Mallards have put a focus on cancer awareness, but this week are going all out, holding a Pink in the Rink.

Wednesday they opened up the arena for the public to come and paint those messages on the ice, where they'll remain for this weekend's set of games, tonight against Indy and Saturday against Fort Wayne.

"This is such a poignant topic for anyone," said Mallards owner Jordan Melville, who spent the day painting at least 10 names of friends and family members who have been affected by cancer. "To bring these people back, even for a moment, is pretty special."

As the day went on, members of the Mallards stopped by to leave their own messages.

Tristan King painted "MOM, Survivor, Love you," complete with a ribbon, heart and his number.

Right in front of the team's bench, Ryan McGrath and his wife, Abby, painted "GMA Tipton," in honor of Abby's grandmother Mavis Tipton, as well as "Sherri Sue" in honor of Sherri Wright, Ryan's aunt, and Sue Campbell, his host mother when he played for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. All are survivors.

"I've always been a part of breast cancer games, but I've never been able to write stuff on the ice so I think to display the names like that is awesome. I think for them it's even more of an accomplishment, fighting over cancer like that," McGrath said. "To do something like that and honor them in a special way is huge. ... It's a special honor, and we're happy to do it."

Many honored were survivors, but others remembered those they had lost.

Kyle Follmer was a senior in college at Northern Michigan when his father, Joe, was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer in August 2013. Joe passed away that next May, while Follmer was getting ready to graduate.

He was 55.

"It more or less brought our family a lot closer together. I tried doing whatever I could to make his life easier, to make my mom's life easier. And thank God I come from a big family with two brothers and two sisters. We all rallied and pitched in and did whatever we could do," Follmer said. "You cope with it, and by the end of it, as hard as it is to see him go, they're better off going because the cancer has spread so much."

Follmer has been involved with cancer awareness since his father's passing. He has participated in runs and other events, and his family has hosted the Joe Follmer Memorial Golf Tournament back in Minnesota every July for the past four years, with plans for a fifth this summer. They donate the proceeds from the event to a family that has been affected by cancer, helping them buy food or pay bills.

It's provided plenty of perspective.

"It really opened my eyes up to what's important in life, and that's the relationships you have with those around you. Any other materialistic stuff doesn't matter," he said. "My old man was a smart man. He had a bunch of money and five kids and a wife of 30 years and finally started to enjoy life, and cancer comes and rips all of it apart. He was buried in a suit and tie. His motorcycles and all that other stuff didn't go with him."

The Mallards have partnered with Genesis Health System for more than two decades and have raised over $800,000 to benefit Genesis Health System charities through their jersey auctions.

The partnership leads to two specialty jersey auctions a year, and this season, the Mallards approached Genesis about making the second one the cancer awareness-themed weekend. The team will wear pink jerseys over the weekend that will be auctioned off following Saturday's game, with proceeds going to Genesis' mammogram coupon program.

"We just don't want funding to be an obstacle for someone to be able to get a screening and detect their cancer early and have a better outcome," said Missy Gowey, executive director of the Genesis Health Services Foundation.

Genesis used the forum to try and increase awareness, putting the number to schedule a free screening as part of their Breast and Cervical Early Detection Program, 563-421-1913, near one of the blue lines.

"I think when people come out to this type of event, it creates awareness for the mammograms we’re trying to fund for people who might otherwise forgo mammograms for not being able to afford it. That’s important," Gowey said. "I think, in addition to awareness, it’s healing to write down the name of someone that you love, whatever phase of cancer they’re in."

With the response from Wednesday's painting, the Mallards don't expect there to be a six-year hiatus before they do something like this again.

"I'd like this to become an annual event," Melville said. "There's so many different emotions going on out there and for us to allow people to express themselves and express their love for someone who may not be there anymore, that's the beautiful thing ... to bring the community together on something that is bigger than hockey. This is community. This is people. This is really what matters."

By the end of the night, after more than 12 hours of painting, the usually pristine white ice was instead covered in a pink sea of memorials, messages and victories.

It will be an emotional weekend.

"I think being at the hockey rink is difficult enough for me, because my dad was at a lot of my games, and he'd always travel and come watch and talk after every game," Follmer said. "Weekends like this, it puts things in perspective how lucky we are to play a game for a job and to be healthy and just be able to play when there's so many people out there battling so many types of cancers and diseases."

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Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times