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Businesses band together to spread awareness

BRAs of the Bay event educates community about breast reconstruction surgery

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October 20, 2023

GREEN BAY – It’s commonly known that the month of October is focused on raising awareness of breast cancer – from donning pink ribbons to show support for those affected to attending various fundraising events.

At BayCare Clinic, Jessica Winkel, business development specialist, said it’s also a time focused on spreading awareness around breast reconstruction surgery.

For the past nine years, BayCare has teamed up with local businesses and sponsors to host BRAs of the Bay – an event that helps raise awareness of the right to reconstruction surgery.

“The event (was) truly the brainchild of Dr. Elizabeth O’Connor,” she said. “She… knew this law (regarding breast reconstruction surgery) was put in place, knew it was federally protected and knew we needed to start spreading the word and gain momentum… so, BRAs of the Bay was born that way.”

Winkel said the annual event – which was held Oct. 12 this year – is both an awareness campaign and a fundraiser.

“One of our key sayings at the clinic is, ‘reconstruction may not be right for everybody, but everybody should be aware of their rights,’” she said. 

Winkel said 100% of the funding BayCare receives from the event – either through donations, sponsorships, raffles or revenue through event ticket sales – goes to Ribbon of Hope (the primary beneficiary) and the Plastic Surgery Foundation. 

“Ribbon of Hope… was created here locally by some fierce and determined women who realized you encounter a lot of bills when you’re sick, and you can’t work and FMLA is only going to get you so far,” she said. “97 cents of every single dollar they get is donated back to breast cancer patients within Brown, Oconto and Kewaunee counties.”

Local support
Each year, area businesses take the time to decorate a bra to showcase at the event – which helps bring even more awareness to breast reconstruction surgery.

A popular aspect of the event, Winkel said it’s great to see businesses from a wide range of industries come together to support the same cause.

Winkel said many of the participants have dealt with cancer in some way, shape or form – so “it touches home for them.”

H and S Roofing in Green Bay was one of the businesses that participated this year. 

Every year, businesses across industries come together and decorate bras to help raise awareness and funding for breast reconstruction surgery. H and S Roofing was one of the businesses to participate this year. Submitted Photo

“One of the owners here, (his) sister works as a nurse for BayCare and she brought it up to us and originally asked us to do a donation for (the event),” Payton Sampson, office manager of H and S Roofing, said. “And then the more she was reading, she was like, ‘well, we could do a donation and we could make a bra.’”

Keeping true to its industry, H and S used shingles and other roofing materials to decorate the business’s bra.

Sampson said the H and S Roofing team felt compelled to participate in the event because a majority of them have dealt with cancer in some way. 

“We always try to keep our eyes open for causes related to cancer,” she said. “I think everyone knows someone who has gone through it, so for us, it was a no-brainer (to support).”

Jamie Hemenway-Peotter, owner of Roots on 9th, said decorating a bra for the event allowed the business to support a great cause and bring its team together.

“We all thought, ‘what a great opportunity with Breast Cancer Awareness month,’” she said. “It doesn’t really cost us anything, just some time and effort, and it was a way to bring everybody together.”

Hemenway-Peotter said the entire team attended the event together. 

“Every single one of us has been touched by somebody who has breast cancer, or cancer in general,” she said. “We’re a small business, and we are part of this community… (We want to do) what we can to give back.”

Some other businesses that participated in this year’s BRAs of the Bay include the National Railroad Museum, Tweet Garot, the Wisconsin Institute of Functional Medicine, Branch Construction and the Green Bay Metro Fire Department. 

The importance of it all
Though it’s the support from businesses and sponsors that make BRAs of the Bay possible each year, Winkel said it’s important to remember who’s at the heart of it all – those on their breast cancer journey.

Last year, Winkel said BayCare raised more than $34,000 for Ribbon of Hope.

The funding went toward 18 $2,000 grants, 11 $3,000 grants for those re-diagnosed with breast cancer and 70 continuous grants of $500 every six months for those with metastatic breast cancer.

“Every one of (BayCare’s) breast cancer patients gets a gift from us, whether they are newly diagnosed, a patient or a survivor,” she said. “It’s important to be inclusive and respectful of that.”

Jessica Winkel

The goal, Winkel said, is continued growth for the event and the support.

“We have a goal of growing this event and making it bigger and better,” she said. “The event is so close to our hearts… Every single dollar helps and pushes us closer to that goal.”

Winkel said she hopes that not only do those who are newly diagnosed, patients and survivors feel supported during the BRAs of the Bay, but all year round.

“BayCare was born and raised here, and we value supporting and educating the community whenever we have the opportunity to,” she said. “For our breast cancer patients, our acknowledgment is that we see you, we support you, you’re a part of our community and we love you. That’s the biggest takeaway.”

To donate and learn more about BRAs of the Bay, visit BayCare Clinic’s BRAs of the Bay page.

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