For the fifth consecutive year, supporters of the Breast Cancer Foundation this month will attend the glitzy gala that is the charity’s main fundraiser.
While much is made of the efforts of the foundation in the run-up to and during the gala, its work continues year round, as it helps to fund treatments for breast cancer patients, awareness drives and other charity events.
The Breast Cancer Foundation has been in existence for five years, set up in response to a rising need for funds within the community.
Kim Lund, a founding director of the foundation, explained that the roots of the charity came from a personal tragedy, when his late wife Brenda Tibbetts Lund was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“We found in the beginning, there was a lack of information in Cayman about breast cancer and a lack of public awareness. When Brenda was diagnosed with a lump in her breast, she was told by her doctor ‘you have an appointment in a couple of months time, so wait until then and we will take a look at it at that time’.
“She could not have gotten worse advice. By the time she got there two months later, it had grown more and went from a lower level tumour to a higher level tumour. She might have been saved if she got there two months before,” said Mr. Lund.
After getting her diagnosis, Ms Tibbetts Lund became involved with the Lions Club of Tropical Gardens and began working tirelessly on letting people know about the risks and dangers of the disease.
“She became an activist in terms of getting more awareness for breast cancer out there,” said Mr. Lund.
Mrs. Tibbetts Lund passed away in 1998. Since then, the Lions Club of Tropical Gardens has organised an annual walk/run held in her memory every year.
“We helped the Lions Club of Tropical Gardens with grants every year, for about 10 years for the Brenda Tibbetts Lund walk/run. Then finally, it got to the point where it was obvious this was becoming a very big need within the community in that there was more awareness, principally in the Cancer Society, about breast cancer and a need for funding,” Mr. Lund explained.
To mark the 10th anniversary of his wife’s passing, Mr. Lund and his business partner James Bovell organised the first Breast Cancer Gala in 2008, and raised more than $55,000.
The following year, Mr. Lund and Mr. Bovell, owners and brokers at RE/MAX Cayman Islands, set up the Breast Cancer Foundation and John Broadbent joined the two men as a direct of the foundation.
The gala is usually held in October, as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but this year it’s being hosted a little early - on 29 September - to fit in with the schedule of the keynote speakers Giuliana and Bill Rancic.
Ms Rancic is a breast cancer survivor and her battle with the disease played out on the couple’s reality TV show “Giuliana and Bill”, after the E! News and Fashion Police regular discovered she had breast cancer while undergoing pre-IVF checks.
The Rancics had their first baby, through a gestational surrogacy pregnancy, earlier this month.
This year, as in previous years, the event has sold out and even faster than usual.
“We have been very fortunate and the support we get from the community as a whole is incredible,” said Mr. Lund. “There is no way we would have any success at all if we did not have that support.”
“Everyone has had some sort of experience with cancer, whether in their family or among their friends or someone they know and I think because of that, this is an event that is very well received,” he added.
To date the foundation has raised more than $350,000 for breast cancer patients and projects in the Cayman Islands.
Funds raised by the sale of tickets for the Breast Cancer Gala and at its accompanying auction, as well as donations received by the foundation, go toward a variety of people and causes. The money provides financial assistance to breast cancer patients, to pay for treatments, expenses, prosthetics or wigs, or other help that individuals need. It also helps fund the Cancer Registry, which was set up in 2010 to gauge the prevalence of all kind of cancers in the Cayman Islands.
The funds raised by the Breast Cancer Foundation also go toward putting on the annual 5k Brenda Tibbetts Lund 5K walk/run and the educational programmes and meetings during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, which is organised each year by the Lions Club of Tropical Gardens.
“We try to spend the funds raised across the whole community in terms of needs, whether it is an individual, the Cancer Society, the Lions Club of Tropical Gardens, the Cancer Registry or the new chemotherapy centre being developed,” said Mr. Lund. “We try to spread as wide a net as possible in terms of where the spending is going and where it is most needed.”
As well as the annual gala, the foundation also hosts a Light Up the Night Full Moon Walk - a charity walk along Seven Mile Beach, in which walkers wear glow-in-the-dark T-shirts and carry glow sticks and lights one night every March. This year was just the second time the Light Up the Night walk was held and it’s already attracting large numbers of people who want to take part in a moonlight stroll on one of the world’s best beaches and raise some funds and awareness for breast cancer at the same time.
Until this year, the Cayman Islands Breast Cancer Foundation was a fully voluntary organisation, but as demands for funds and fundraising, and the related administration increased, the foundation created a full-time paid position for one of its former volunteers - Heather McLaughlin, who now holds the post of chief administrator.
“The gala and all the needs for funding grew to the point where we could not all do it on a voluntary basis,” Mr. Lund said.
The annual Breast Cancer Gala will be held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Saturday, 29 September.