Flashes of pink are turning up around Andover these past couple of weeks in what’s become an annual celebration, even during a pandemic.

We speak of the flowers, ribbons, ice cream sprinkles, milkshakes and even rocks meant to honor Colleen Ritzer, the late high school math teacher memorialized every spring, on or near her birthday, in her hometown.

To be sure, the annual Step Up for Colleen 5K, which usually involves thousands of pink-clad runners and walkers raising money for the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship, is delayed until Sept. 19 due to COVID-19 precautions.

Hopefully, by then, the days of masks and strict social distancing will be well behind us.

But all the rest continues.

Pink daisies grown by Colleen’s dad and his friends at Konjoian’s Greenhouses sold out this year and were distributed at the beginning of the month. Mad Maggie’s in North Andover sold special pink ice cream sprinkles to raise money for the scholarship, which goes to help budding teachers from Andover and Danvers, where Colleen had started a career teaching high school math.

Pipe Dream cupcakes sold special confections in honor of Colleen’s birthday on May 13. Pink lemonade, smoothies and shakes sold at a handful of local McDonald’s restaurants — in Andover, Amesbury and Newburyport — have yielded contributions toward the scholarship fund.

“I hope through social media outreach and signs in the restaurant, people are inspired to give back in their own ways,” franchise owner Carissa Haley recently told reporter Madeline Hughes. Thus far, she’s raised nearly $2,000 but hopes to end up with $10,000 for the fund.

Ribbons turned up on utility poles on the usual 5K course, even if the race was not to be run, this month anyway.

Then there are the rocks, painted pink and emblazoned with words of inspiration by teenagers down at the Cormier Youth Center. “Love rules,” “Step up” and, apropos of the message spread by the staff of Andover Youth Services, “Love and Kindness,” some of them read.

No, we may not have been running and walking up Bartlet Street, through the Phillips Academy campus and its Cochran Wildlife Sanctuary, this spring. But as the teenagers, business owners and so many others in Andover and its nearby towns have shown, Colleen Ritzer was very much on everyone's mind. 

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