Shopping, Fun And Friendship For A Cause at Rodes

For many reasons, Louisville is one of the most desirable cities to live. I’ve concluded the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby are reason enough for me to love my city! With the Derby festivities in full bloom, there is no rest for the weary as hot balloon races, the largest fireworks show in North America, parades, food festivals, marathons, bed races and countless public and private Derby parties quickly fill up schedules.

In a short span, Fran Thornton and her loyal committee have turned Derby Divas into one of the most popular events, highly attended by women who have come together to support other women in the fight against breast cancer and celebrate the survivors. The second you walk through the doors of Rodes the feeling of commitment to make a difference in our community is overwhelming.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Fran Thornton to find out the keys to Derby Divas’ success.

LORI KOMMOR: Thursday, April 18, marks the seventh annual Derby Divas event, which has grown in popularity each year. Tell us how the event has changed over the years, and share with us the keys to its success.
FRAN THORNTON: Derby Divas has grown from a small party of women to an event attended by over 4,000 women in this community. The women of this community have really embraced Derby Divas and love the chance to come together to celebrate Derby and breast cancer survivors, and to provide underserved women in our community with access to mammograms. Thanks to all of our Derby Divas supporters, over 8,400 women have been screened for breast cancer, and 59 have been diagnosed and treated for active or pre-invasive breast cancer through the Norton Cancer Institute Mobile Screening Unit since 2007.

 KOMMOR: Derby Divas is presented by Vicki and Paul Diaz and Kindred Healthcare, Inc., along with the Yum! Brands Foundation, and is part of the Thornton Challenge. Can you explain what the Thornton Challenge entails?
THORNTON: Thorntons Inc. has challenged Derby Divas to raise $400,000 by April 30, 2016. If the challenge is met, Thorntons will donate $100,000 – making a total of $500,000 raised to support the Norton Cancer Institute Breast Health Program and mammography for underserved women in our community!

KOMMOR: What is the background of Derby Divas?
THORNTON: Derby Divas started as a small party with a group of about 40 women in 2006. Then, in 2007, I got involved with several of our current committee members and Rodes For Him and For Her agreed to host the event. On April 19, 2007, we hosted “There’s a new race in town … at Rodes!” From there, the event has grown to a “do-not-miss” Derby event. To date, the event and challenge initiatives have raised nearly $1 million.

KOMMOR: Making a difference in the lives of others and our community is not to be taken for granted. Tell us how Derby Divas has done so.
THORNTON: Derby Divas through the Norton Healthcare Foundation wants to ensure all women have access to mammograms and early prevention and detection. Since, 2007, over 8,400 women have been screened for breast cancer, and 59 have been diagnosed and treated for active or pre-invasive breast cancer through the Norton Cancer Institute Mobile Screening Unit.

KOMMOR: I know you have a team of dynamic women that volunteer their time in the planning process of Derby Divas. Tell us about the important role they play with the event?
THORNTON: Each of our Derby Divas committee members plays an integral role in making this event a success. From the food and drink to the décor to the program we have each year, they create the entire evening’s experience. Plus, they make sure all of the friends and family don’t miss out on this wonderful evening!

KOMMOR: Where can tickets be purchased for the event?
THORNTON: Admission is $45 in advance and $55 at the door. The first 50 registrants to pay a special $125 admission price will receive an exclusive tote bag filled with beauty products and goodies. Tickets can be purchased by calling 502.629.1234 or visit

We also have a wonderful raffle package this year! We are offering a Blackberry Farm getaway package for two which includes a three-night stay in a luxurious Holly Glade Cottage Suite, meals for two throughout your say and a food and wine event for two.  The chances are only $50, and we’ll be drawing for the winner at the event! As a bonus this year, if you purchase your raffle ticket by April 17, you will be entered to win one of four fabulous prizes: a Christine Moore hat, designer shoes from Rodes For Her, a designer bag from Hammitt or a piece from Louisville Stoneware.