Pink was “in” at Lighthouse Point Park over the weekend, as men and women in neon-pink fairy costumes and dogs in pink tutus gathered to bring attention to breast cancer.
Three thousand survivors, caregivers and volunteers wearing various shades of pink marched Sunday afternoon at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer annual walk. The event was hosted by the American Cancer Society to celebrate the courage of breast cancer survivors and to commemorate loved ones lost. Positivity was abound in all forms, ranging from a flash zumba dance tutorial to an inspirational speech by Karen Jacobowitz, who is currently battling stage four breast cancer.
“It’s not the best of experiences to realize that your DD cup bra doesn’t fit you anymore,” Jacobowitz said, “But that’s no reason to be glum; you have to get out of the house, go to work if possible and stay focused on the good things in life.”
Jacobowitz underwent orthopedic surgery and chemotherapy, all while keeping her job and raising a family. “I can’t emphasize how important a positive attitude is,” she said.
After a brief opening ceremony, everyone rushed towards the starting line, where the top fundraising team so far, “Lara’s Army,” cut the ribbon and officially started the main event. As thousands of pink-clad people began swarming down the beachside road, Nickii Sweeten, chair of the organizing committee, said she “couldn’t believe it was actually happening.”
Sweeten, who is chairing the event for the first time after four years on the committee board, had been orchestrating the event for the past nine months: soliciting sponsors, devising marketing stratagem and figuring out how to both deliver food and help to breast cancer survivors in need.
Her personal twist on the annual event was sending hand-calligraphed invitations to breast-cancer survivors, Sweeten said. She added that the number of survivors who preregistered for the event jumped from 50 last year to 97 this year.
Sweeten had ambitious plans for fundraising as well. There has been a steady increase in donations for the past few years, from $85,000 in 2015 to $100,000 in 2016. This year, Sweeten is aiming for $125,000, which she said is ambitious, but not impossible.
The funds will be used in a variety of measures targeting breast cancer related issues, according to American Cancer Society representative Graham Kobs.
“We want patients to be strong and proud in fighting their battles,” Kobs said.
Funds will be directed towards programs involving early cancer detection, breast cancer research and educational workshops on maintaining a positive body image.
For many, the use of funds raised by breast cancer organizations is a touchy issue. In 2012, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation received glaring public scrutiny when it cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s most prominent torchbearers for women’s rights. Pundits argued that the foundation was coerced by anti-abortion influences behind the scene. Although the foundation’s decision was rescinded after three days, the damage was already made as the organization’s vice president, Karen Handel, resigned amidst blowback.
When asked just how the funds raised by the event would be used, Kobs noted that those decisions are made not by him and other organizers but by people inside the Beltway.
“It’s up to our lobbyists on Capitol Hill and not really up to us on the ground who are planning these events,” he said.
He added, however, that the political use of the society’s funds does align with organizers’ general values.
Political issues aside, one point on which everyone agreed — at booths and on panels and backs of t-shirts — was that early detection of breast cancer was critical.
“Go get your mammograms and self-exams,” said Sharon Taylor SPH ’11, who was at the event as a first-time volunteer for the committee. “It can really make a difference.”
Nicole Ahn | firstname.lastname@example.org