Shirley Lyons and her daughter Toviana Jackson are in the emotion business.

For more than 40 years, the family has owned and operated Dandelions Flowers & Gifts in Eugene.

“We see the births, we see the deaths, we see illness, and we send flowers for those occasions,” Shirley says. “So our work is touching people’s lives during the greatest and most difficult times in their lives.”

Four years ago, the mother-daughter team felt compelled to create an event that would bring awareness to breast cancer and raise money to support patients going through treatment. Borrowing a concept that has been used around the country, Bras for a Cure was born: Invite people to decorate a bra, put the creations on display, and encourage people to donate by voting for their favorites.

“We wanted to do something that people would be excited about, while making sure the money raised would stay right here in our community,” Shirley says. “It’s important to have national cancer research, but people going through treatment have real financial needs.”

A partnership for hope
Since Bras for a Cure began four years ago, proceeds raised have helped support the work of Oregon Cancer Foundation.

The Foundation provides stopgap financial assistance to Lane County residents and individuals receiving cancer-related services in Lane County. That help is delivered to patients in ways it’s needed most, like gas money to get to treatment, a rent check, or money to pay a utility bill or buy groceries.

“We’re raising money for practical, in-the-moment needs that make a big difference in people’s lives when they’re going through a difficult time,” Toviana says.

Laughing in the face of cancer
On the surface, Bras for a Cure is a colorful event without creative limits, besides the bras needing to be “family friendly.” But the fundraiser has become much more than a creative outlet for those who want to give back. Many of the bras submitted have stories behind them that bring an emotional component to the event that neither Shirley nor Toviana expected.

“The woman who won Bras for a Cure the first year created a bra in memory of a loved one who had recently passed away from breast cancer,” says Toviana. “For her, creating this bra was a big part of the grieving process. Her creation was truly a piece of art.”

Every year since, participants have decorated bras in honor of or in memory of loved ones, or to celebrate their own survivorship—a therapeutic way for them to acknowledge how cancer has affected their lives.

Join us and have fun
Bras for a Cure is expanding this year, beginning with a community Build-A-Bra kick off event at Valley River Center.

What: Bras for a Cure Build-A-Bra Event
When: Wed., Oct. 7, 4-7 pm
Where: Center Court, Valley River Center, Eugene
Cost: $10 entry fee (proceeds go to Oregon Cancer Foundation)

With a $10 entry fee, participants receive a bra to decorate and access to general craft supplies to make their creation, although participants are welcome to bring their own supplies, as well.

Shirley and Toviana will host a Reveal Party on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at Dandelions Flowers & Gifts, where all the bras will be on display through the end of October.

Voting runs Oct. 19 – 31, online at brasforacure.com and at Dandelions. Each vote costs $1; and there’s no limit to how many times you can vote. The more votes cast means more money raised to support cancer patients in Lane County.

“Cancer is a downer. It’s a serious disease affecting so many people,” Shirley says. “But this fundraiser is meant to pick people up. We invite the community to get involved.”

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