October 17, 2008

Contest focuses on breast cancer awareness

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Legend has it that decades ago, women burned them in celebration of freedom and liberation. Today, men and women across the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus will decorate and display the female undergarments in an act of symbolism, sending a very important message, 2008 style.

“Bra! Bra! Bra! Unite to Fight” isn’t just the theme of a contest to see which student group can create the most imaginatively decorated brassiere. The “Be My Bra” event, set for Oct. 30 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Student Health Center auditorium, is actually a special competition to raise awareness and take a stand against breast cancer. The Student Health Center and Student Development are teaming with Southern Illinois Healthcare for the second annual “Be My Bra” competition.

“This is a great opportunity for SIH and SIUC to come together as the region’s largest employers to raise awareness of breast cancer, something that will impact each of us in some way or another in our lifetimes,” said Jennifer Badiu, administrative director of cancer care services for SIH. “We want to engage young adults to be aware of the importance of breast self-exams at their age and encourage the inspiring women in their lives -- mom, grandmother, aunt, sister or professor -- to get their annual mammograms.”

The inaugural competition in 2007 drew nearly a dozen SIUC Pan-Hellenic groups vying for the title. More than 200 students were involved. This year, the contest has expanded and is open to all of the University’s more than 400 Registered Student Organizations as well as other groups of SIUC students.

The early registration deadline is Monday, Oct. 20. For information or to sign up, contact Valerie Baker at 618/453-5200, ext. 67128 or via e-mail at valerie.baker@sih.net.

“Once again, the overriding theme is one of awareness and the need for early detection among college-age women,” said Rosslind Rice, SIH communications coordinator. “We were thrilled with the turnout during our inaugural event last year. The students displayed innovative and thoughtful ways of communicating why they decorated the bras as they did. The stories of how breast cancer had impacted their young lives were profound too.”

“Be My Bra” coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness Month and organizers say it’s important that women of all ages, even college students, realize that breast cancer can strike at any age and take action, including self-examinations and healthy living.

“This is a great way to increase awareness and contribute to overall wellness and a healthy lifestyle,” said Christy Hamilton, coordinator of sexual health, relationship violence and sexual assault programs for the SIUC Student Health Center. “It’s important to learn the habit of breast self-examination. Learn it and do it. You’re never too young for testing. This contest lets the students use their creativity to get the message across.”

Hamilton said the health center is excited to partner with SIH for the “Be My Bra” competition for several reasons. It’s a way to show students the Student Health Center is available to help them in so many ways. It’s also a chance to encourage healthy behaviors, including breast exams, proper diet and exercise. An information table will offer details about cancer risks, affordable screening options, and other important things to know, Hamilton said.

The evening is not just a fashion contest for tastefully decorated lingerie. Each competing group will offer a brief presentation explaining why they decorated their bras as they did and how breast cancer has impacted their lives.

“This issue touches home with a lot of students, in fact with most people,” said Andy Morgan, coordinator of Greek life in the SIUC Student Development office. “This contest is a great way to support, to educate, and to honor those who have survived the disease and the memory of those who haven’t. It’s a fun event for the groups to show their creativity but also to support and acknowledge those who have battled breast cancer.”

The most creative, thought-provoking brassieres will win prizes. The public is welcome to attend “Bra! Bra! Bra! Unite to Fight!” Refreshments will follow.

Entries from the 2007 “Be My Bra” contest are at various locales around campus spotlighting the 2008 event. People attending various upcoming breast cancer events will likewise be able to view this year’s contest entries during the coming year.