Around 700 women and men gathered Friday (Oct. 2) at the 17th annual Susan G. Komen Pink Ribbon Luncheon to kick off October as National Breast Cancer Awareness month. The event raised money for cancer support services in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith area.
Lauren Marquette, executive director of Komen Ozark, said the luncheon focused the community on the continuing need for breast cancer research and funding.
“This is a need that needs to be up front and center because one in eight women are still diagnosed with breast cancer,” Marquette said.
The number of breast cancer survivors present, and the number of those present who had friends or family affected by breast cancer, highlighted the fact that the fight against the disease has not been won. A youtube video produced by Komen Ozark said statistics show that 429 women locally will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015; and 97 women in the area will die of the disease in this calendar year.
Alyssa Holder, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29, told her story through a video that played during the luncheon. She said when she begins to dwell on her struggle with the disease, she reminds herself of how lucky she is and that others haven’t had the best results.
“Not a lot of people have had the same ending,” Holder said. “I am cancer free. We are amazingly blessed.”
Kari Nikolish , Komen Ozark board president, said the community’s support of Komen Ozark allowed the organization to make a difference with people like Holder.
“Alyssa is an incredible example of how Komen’s efforts help local families in their journey with breast cancer,” she said. “Alyssa allowing us to tell her story gives us the rare opportunity to put a face to the many facts we share with you … your support allows us to make a difference with people like Alyssa.”
According to their website, the mission of Komen Ozark is to provide funding for breast cancer education and outreach in the ten county region that covers Benton, Boone, Carroll, Crawford, Madison, Newton, Sebastian and Washington counties in Arkansas, and Stone and Taney counties in Missouri.
During the event, organizers announced the results of a new Komen Ozark fundraising campaign called the “BigWig” program. Marquette said a “BigWig” is local celebrity or community leader who raises funds for and awareness of breast cancer by wearing an outrageous pink wig as they go about their daily life. The program started in August and ended with the top fundraisers being crowned at the Pink Ribbon Luncheon.
The “BigWigs” participating included:
• Adam Dill with General Mills,
• Al Lopez with Papa Rap Productions,
• Carla Herren with Cameron Smith & Associates,
• Diana Marshall with Walmart,
• Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville,
• Ginger Brooks with Nestle,
• Jon Williams with Loyal and Royal Army, Inc/104.9 the X/KXNA;
• Kelly Zega with Crystal Bridges,
• Dr. Missy Clifton with Premier Dermatology, and
• Wendy Dunn with Wendy Dunn Photography.
The celebrity BigWigs raised a total of $31,604, with Clifton being the top fundraiser.
Also, during the luncheon, nine breast cancer survivors modeled clothes from Town and Country Shop and shoes from Skechers. The models were Jackie Bolt, Ann Krusemark, Jeanette Litiker, Terri Mallioux, Debbie Power, Kathy Prince, Pam Reid, Kahla Scroggins and Cindy Velotta. Stylists from Enve Salon helped with their hair and makeup.
The Gaye Cypert Power of Promise Award went to KNWA/Fox24 for their coverage of Komen Ozark events. Hope Cancer Resources was awarded the Grantee of the Year Award and iHeart Media was chosen as Outstanding Corporate Sponsor.
Komen Ozark grant recipients of $725,000, for the 2015-2016 calendar year, are Community Clinic, Donald W. Reynolds Cancer Support House, Hope Cancer Resources, Madison County Health Coalition, Mercy Breast Center, Mercy Fort Smith, North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education, River Valley Primary Care Services, Skaggs Foundation and the Washington Regional Support Home.
The Breast Center, A MANA Clinic, was the presenting sponsor of the Pink Ribbon Luncheon. Other sponsors included Highlands Oncology Group, NWA Holiday Inn and Convention Center, Tyson, Fayetteville AutoPark, Lewis Automotive Group, Johnelle Hunt, General Mills and Northwest Health Systems.