On October 21, two beloved philanthropic events aimed at ending breast cancer will be joining forces to make a greater impact than ever. Pink Prom and Pinktober have united their formerly individual efforts to make more of a difference together than was ever possible on their own. It’s what can best be described as a pink partnership.
Karen Davis was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping with her husband in 2014 when she got a call from her doctor telling her she had breast cancer.
“I was scared. I was scared, scared, scared, scared,” she says. “I just had to come apart right there in the parking lot.”
Davis, 55, battled breast cancer for all of 2015 and won, but the conflict was arduous. She had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, and she was hospitalized several times for pneumonia.
Davis fought her battle at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, a division of KentuckyOne Health. Because she struggles with pulmonary issues, her lumpectomy had to wait until August 2015.
“I do believe God led me to the James Graham Brown Cancer Center,” she says. “My experience there was just wonderful from beginning to end. Every contact that I had, from the receptionists to scheduling people to nurses, every single contact was positive. [Oncologist] Dr. [Dharamvir] Jain wanted to make sure that all the ducks were in order, that everything was a go to have the surgery and whether or not my pulmonary issues could support that, and they just made me feel confident.”
Merging to help local women
Two local breast cancer fundraisers have come together this year to benefit the Brown Cancer Center’s early detection efforts. Eventris’ Pink Prom is merging with 102.3 The Max’s Pinktober to form one spectacular event. All money raised by ticket sales will go to the Brown Cancer Center.
This will be the fifth year for Pink Prom, an event that local event planner and Eventris founder Joey Wagner and his business partner Jason Brown started. Wagner says Brown came to him several years ago and suggested they recreate a prom.
“We put our heads together,” Wagner describes. “I was like, ‘How cool would it be to have it be a charity event and tie breast cancer in and call it the Pink Prom?’ Both of us came together with his ideas and my ideas – we just thought that it would be a really cool event. And now it’s turned into one of the best young professional events of the year.”
Wagner says the event features the whole prom experience. People wear old prom dresses and tuxedos, some arrive in limos and even have corsages. But it’s not just for young people any more. The demographic has changed a bit to include all ages 21 and older.
Meanwhile, for four years, 102.3 The Max has hosted its annual Pinktober event, featuring national touring acts such as Rachel Platten, Andy Grammer, American Authors and more. This year, two acts – Simple Plan and A Great Big World – will perform.
“We are very excited about it,” emphasizes Sarah Jordan, The Max’s program director. “Simple Plan is a band that a lot of our listeners have grown up listening to, and it just makes perfect sense that it would be one of those bands that would be singing at your prom.”
The bands will play acoustic sets and will be bookended by DJ K-Dogg and DJ Ace.
The two companies realized that their events were scheduled for the same night, so they decided to merge to create a bigger event to raise money for a local cause.
“We really think it’s going to bring more awareness and raise money and really be overall a great time,” Jordan says. “This is a way to re-brand the event to bring something new, something different, something everyone is talking about, everyone’s excited about, making it one of the ‘it’ events of October.”
This year, the event will have a prom court, which will feature five women and five men with close connections to breast cancer. Nomination is going on now online, and the court will be announced October 3. Of the 10, a king and queen will be chosen and crowned at the event. The courtiers who raise the most money for the cause will get the crown.
The court members can be survivors of breast cancer, those who have lost loved ones to breast cancer or those who have raised money or awareness for the disease. The key is that they have a significant impact on the cause, Wagner relates.
In the past, both events have given to various breast cancer charities, but this year, they decided to keep it local. Because KentuckyOne became the presenting sponsor of the event, the two decided that the money should benefit the Brown Cancer Center.
The Brown Cancer Center will use the funds to help with early detection and screening.
“We have a lot of exciting things happening around breast cancer, awareness and screenings,” says Leslie Smart, division vice president of development for the Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Foundation. The Foundation is the philanthropic arm that supports all the KentuckyOne facilities throughout the Louisville market and beyond. “Last year, our team worked very closely with former Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear and rolled out a new cancer screening van. It conducts breast cancer screenings and mammography but also screenings for nine different types of cancers. Proceeds from this event specifically are going to support those efforts.”
The Foundation has its own events throughout the year to raise funds, but Smart says for an outside entity to want to host, plan and raise such a large amount of money for the Foundation is incredible.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to have enough staff to manage additional events,” she says. “To be a third-party event for us and for them to raise as much money that they’re going to raise for us – that’s huge.”
The Foundation and the Brown Cancer Center are grateful, she adds.
“I can’t thank them enough for their vision, enthusiasm and the energy they have and the volunteer time they’re putting toward this event,” Smart enthuses. “They’re just a powerful group of community ambassadors that want to make a difference, and we’re immensely grateful.”
The importance of outreach
Before she retired, Davis worked in social services, helping underserved communities get those same screenings, so she knows the value of outreach.
“A lot of women are still scared, whether we’re talking immigrant communities or African-American women, there is still that fear,” she says. “Routine visits may not be on the top of their to-do lists. Where I’ve worked, we’ve prepared women for them because even though those mobile units came, sometimes there was still that fear of going through it. I was often a support person, trying to say, ‘It’s better to know than not know.’”
There are 200,000 new cases of breast cancer every year, and the Brown Cancer Center is screening about 4,000 people annually with its mobile mammography unit, Smart says. “What we do know is how absolutely critical it is to be screened early and often. And if we can catch breast cancer early, the prognosis is so positive. But it’s screening, and that’s what really makes the difference.”
Facing the disease with hope
Davis was fortunate that her cancer was caught while only in Stage II (spread to only nearby tissues), but it doesn’t make the diagnosis any less terrifying.
“It’s one thing to be general and know that you’re not going to live forever and have those thoughts when you’re well,” she says. “For me, to be questioning whether I would be here in a year … everything became large – the smile of my grandchild – everything became large and weighty.”
She never lost confidence in the process: “Every single step, I felt like I had hope. Here was no reason for despair. … It felt like I wasn’t necessarily going for medical treatment; I was just going to go do this thing, and these were people that I knew and I liked. That was nice.”
Having an enthusiastic doctor helped in her recovery and optimism.
“Dr. Jain was my coordinating doctor. The way he explains things – he’s so passionate, and you can tell he loves teaching so he just lights up!” she says. “If you have to have this experience that’s traumatizing enough, to have someone who is excited about the healing process – I couldn’t get in that space for too long of feeling sorry for myself. He gave me hope. The whole team gave me hope.”
Now that she’s been cancer-free for more than nine months, she has advice to give anyone who gets such a frightening diagnosis: “To know what your faith is, stand on it and draw that circle around you that is supportive. When I say that, I mean your immediate circle of your friends and family, however it may be. I even had girlfriends that I don’t see regularly that I’m keeping in contact with on Facebook or social media who were all a part of that daily prayer circle for me, and I leaned on it very heavily.”
She trimmed her activities down to only those she really needed.
“I cut out a lot of things that I just felt were not important,” she says. “And between structuring my day around my faith and my little circle, for a whole year, that’s what I did. That’s what I stood on. Those are the things I would recommend.” VT
A pop-punk band from Montreal, Quebec, Simple Plan has become an international sensation with five albums and several hit songs. Billboard described their sound as “a spunky, energetic punk sound, textured like Cheap Trick but raw like Pennywise.” The band is known for hits such as “Crazy” and “Welcome to My Life.”
They released their most recent album “Taking One for the Team,” in February, after the release of the funky single “I Don’t Wanna Go to Bed,” featuring Nelly. It debuted at No. 4 on the Canadian Albums Chart.
Ian Axel and Chad King met while studying music at New York University and formed the melodic indie-pop dup A Great Big World. Their first full-length album, “Is There Anybody Out There,” debuted in 2014, and “When The Morning Comes,” in 2015.
They’ve collaborated with Ingrid Michaelson (“Over You”) and Christina Aguilera (“Say Something”). They won a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for the haunting hit ballad, “Say Something,” and their song “This Is the New Year” was featured on “Glee.”
Photos by Jessica Budnick & Ryan Noltemeyer