NAPLES — Wearing bras outside of clothing and strutting in ridiculously high heels will become fashionable during the month of October—especially if the accessories are bright pink.
Several local events are taking place to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, including two separate events in downtown Naples on Oct. 20, each raising awareness and funds to support breast cancer patients and further research.
As pink ribbons roll out this month, the spotlight on breast cancer brings opportunity to highlight the many organizations in Southwest Florida fighting a common battle against this ugly disease.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) is “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” with a 5K walk at Cambier Park. Women -- and a few men -- will don hot pink braziers decorated with beads, feathers and other finery to lend support to the cause. “Put on Your Pink Bra” was introduced last year as a symbol of how personal the fight against breast cancer is.
“It’s exciting,” said Susan Freeman, ACS’s publicity chair for the event. “There’s so many people there. Everybody is in the spirit, there to do a good deed and have some fun. It’s just a nice camaraderie.”
ACS expects more than 2,000 people to show up for the event. Teams have been fundraising for several months leading up to the big day. The walk kicks off at 9 a.m. in Cambier Park, where there will be live entertainment, including high school bands and The Calendar Girls.
The goal is to honor breast cancer survivors, increase awareness about risk and raise money for ACS’s research and services. Since the walk began 20 years ago, breast cancer rates have decreased by more than 32 percent, according to the ACS website (www.cancer.org).
The fun continues later in the day with a Stiletto Sprint down Fifth Avenue South at 6 p.m. The 500-foot sprint is expected to draw more than 500 sprinters and thousands of spectators. People especially like to watch the awkward gait of men in heels.
“Men love it,” said Miriam Ross, executive director for the local Komen affiliate. “They get a lot of attention.”
This year’s event begins at 4:30 p.m. and has been expanded to include children’s activities, live entertainment, raffles and costume contests. Attendees are encouraged to dress in duds from their favorite decade, with prizes given to the best attire from each generation.
Those who register for the sprint or donate at least $25 will be entered into a special prize drawing from Park Royal Jewelers for a pink diamond ring valued at $13,000, Ross said.
The Stiletto Sprint jointly benefits Komen and The Garden of Hope & Courage, which was founded in 1994 by friends of Jan Emfield. Emfield enjoyed the tranquility of her home garden during her battle with breast cancer. Located on the campus of the downtown NCH Hospital, the Garden of Hope & Courage serves as a healing sanctuary for breast cancer patients.
“It’s a place to meditate, relax, visit with family and feel the Florida sun,” said Executive Director Amy Lane. “It is a space where you can go to be alone, if needed, a place to just collect your thoughts and reflect.”
Seventy-five percent of Komen’s proceeds stay in Southwest Florida to support breast cancer patients and ensure access to screenings (the other 25 percent goes to research). In 2012, the local affiliate awarded $825,000 in grants to twelve organizations supporting local breast health.
One of those organizations is Cancer Alliance of Naples (CAN). With its $41,000 Komen grant, CAN is helping breast cancer patients with non-medical expenses, including rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, groceries and gas.
On Oct. 5, CAN is auctioning off some of the area’s most eligible bachelors. The light-hearted fundraiser will be from 6-10 p.m. at the Hilton in Naples. Jason Resmini from “The Bachelorette” will be the special guest. Tickets are $125, or $800 for a table of eight.
Another event benefitting local cancer patients will take place Oct. 18-21 at Waterside Shops. Members of the community are invited to join Saks 5th Avenue in its Key to the Cure Campaign, locally benefitting Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support, Inc.
Bosom Buddies helps reduce stress for uninsured and underinsured breast cancer patients by negotiating reduced bill payments and covering the cost of surgeries and other treatments.
Founder and 19-year breast cancer survivor Joetta Abbazio doesn’t want patients to put off critical procedures due to finances. “I tell them, ‘Don’t stress about the bills; I’ll stress about them. You focus on getting well.’”
Since 1995, Bosom Buddies has paid out $4 million in benefits to local women dealing with breast cancer.
Key to the Cure kicks off Oct. 18 with a fashion show featuring breast cancer survivors and their daughters. They’ll model again on Saturday, Oct. 20, during a special event in the Waterside Shops plaza from 1 to 4 p.m.
Saks has agreed to donate 2 percent of its sales to Bosom Buddies, while other shops at Waterside will be participating in Shop & Share, also giving a percentage of sales to the organization.
In Lee County, Norman Love will be creating decadent, pink chocolate high heels to benefit Partners for Breast Cancer Care (PFBCC). He also is vying for top honors in the Martha Stewart “American Made” contest, and if he wins the $10,000 prize determined by popular vote, he will donate the money to PFBCC, said the organization’s executive director, Janet Darnell.
PFBCC also is unveiling its new signature fundraising event on Oct. 4. Artful Giving is an auction and cocktail party with 50 hand-painted chairs up for bid. All chairs may be viewed on the organization’s website, www.pfbcc.org.
The grassroots organization received a $138,000 Komen grant this year to serve lower-income Lee County residents through a network of healthcare providers who have agreed to reduced fees. The organization helped nearly 1,500 women and men last year.
Also this month, you may catch a glimpse of the “Mary Helen,” a bright pink, 70-ton crane, on the construction site for The Terraces in Bonita Springs, 26401 S. Tamiami Trail. The Sims crane has collected more than 300,000 signatures from supporters, and its use benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure.