October 01, 2007

Students join breast cancer awareness effort

by Christi Mathis

unite 2 fight

Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. – How many ways can imaginative college students festoon a female undergarment? That's the challenge facing the 11 Southern Illinois University Carbondale sororities and fraternities at the first-ever "Be My Bra" competition Thursday, Oct. 4, from 4 to 6 p.m. The public's invited to join in the fun at the International Lounge of the SIUC Student Center.

The SIUC Pan-Hellenic Council is teaming up with Miss Illinois, Ashley Hatfield, and Southern Illinois Healthcare for the "Bra! Bra! Bra! Unite to Fight!" event promoting October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each team will display its very own, one-of-a-kind brassiere designed to convey their sorority or fraternity's stand against breast cancer.

During the competition, each group will also deliver a short interpretation or presentation about the impact of breast cancer on the lives of the group's contestants.

"We're trying to capture the attention of young women about the importance of self-exams and mammograms," said Rosslind Rice, communications coordinator for Southern Illinois Healthcare. Much like a bra provides support and strength, the event's title and theme refer to how friends can support and encourage one another in the fight against breast cancer, she said.

Rice said while financial and volunteer support for breast cancer research and education is holding steady, there's actually been a decline in the percentage of women getting mammograms, particularly among the well-educated, insured middle-aged population. Organizers of the inaugural SIUC event hope it will serve as a reminder to women of all ages of the necessity of conducting self-exams and getting regular mammograms.

"Most of us have seen the pink ribbons and everything but we really didn't realize it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month," said Kaylie Schlueter, a senior community health education major from Rantoul who is community service chair for the Pan-Hellenic Council. She said 11 units of the InterGreek Council have enthusiastically embraced the project.

"They're really excited about the competition," she said. "A lot of them are using their organization colors to decorate the bras. They're keeping it very tasteful but everybody's excited and wants to win the Golden Bra award. This event is great because breast cancer not only affects girls but boys as well and we're all involved in this. Most of the people participating have known someone with breast cancer or a survivor. We as a Greek community have never participated in something like this and it's a great way to increase awareness."

Rice said the American Cancer Society indicates one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. Perhaps the remarkable reaction of the SIUC students is evidence of the widespread impact of the disease, Rice said.

"The response has just been tremendous," Rice said.

"The main thing is, we want to promote breast cancer awareness," said Andy Morgan, coordinator of Greek life in the Student Development office. "We want women to be more conscious of it and encourage them to lead healthier lives. This is a fun way to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I'm anxious to see these designs. Some of the students are really creative. It's nice to see them so enthusiastic and involved in something that touches so many people. My mother is a survivor and almost everyone knows someone who has had breast cancer. Something like this event does a lot of good."

Hatfield, of Anna, lost her grandmother to the disease and her community service platform "Breast Cancer – Action, Awareness and Advocacy" is helping promote breast cancer awareness among young women. In addition to presenting the keynote address, Hatfield will be one of three judges for the "Be My Bra" competition, picking the winner of the inaugural "Golden Bra" award.

More than 200 sorority and fraternity members will participate in the event, which will include hors d-oeuvres. Visitors to the SIH offices and system hospitals throughout the coming year will see the specialty bras on display after the contest.