It was supposed to be a onetime affair, a society party to raise money for a good cause. On that basis, interior decorator Nancy Paul readily agreed when Shari Creed, then co-owner of a Toronto fashion boutique, asked her in April, 1986, to host a fund-raising dinner with Italian designer Valentino as guest of honor. An active volunteer, Paul frequently hosted charitable events at her suburban Willowdale home. But that time, she added one condition. A close friend had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and Paul wanted to give the $13,653 raised by the dinner directly to the fight against that disease. She said that she could not do that through the Canadian Cancer Society because it did not allow donors to designate how their contributions will be used. Instead, Paul’s group wrote directly to breast-cancer researchers in Ontario and asked them to submit proposals for funding. They finally decided to donate the money to Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital for its breast-screening centre. But the deluge of requests for the group’s relatively paltry
sum suggested that breast-cancer research was in need of help. Said Paul: “Morally, we could not walk away from it.”
They did not. In November, 1986, Paul and nine other people formed a committee dedicated solely to raising funds and increasing awareness of breast cancer. That committee has since evolved into the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Most of the organization’s 600 members are in Ontario, but executive director Bette Johnston said that regional branches will soon be formed to accommodate members from other provinces. Ontario chairman Carole Grafstein, whose mother had breast cancer, estimates that half of their members are survivors of the disease. “One out of every 10 women will get breast cancer,” Grafstein said. “It touches a lot of us.”
Since its first informal fund raiser, the organization has raised more than $500,000 for breast-cancer research, enabling researchers in four provinces to initiate 14 new studies. In addition to fund-raising, they have also given high priority to alerting women to the importance of early detection. To do that, the foundation has initiated four national public education campaigns, including one in a partnership with Kellogg Canada Inc. in which the food conglomerate agreed to print information about breast cancer on packages of a new breakfast cereal called Nutrific. Said Paul: “A woman’s chances are so much better if breast cancer is caught early.”
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