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Bras for a Cause campaign kicks off

Mehreen Shahid

By Mehreen Shahid, Orillia Packet & Times

Luisa Cirimele, Cathy Epp and Donna Howlett are rallying behind the bras to collect money for Bravember, a project that provides financial support to Orillia residents going through cancer treatment. MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES

Luisa Cirimele, Cathy Epp and Donna Howlett are rallying behind the bras to collect money for Bravember, a project that provides financial support to Orillia residents going through cancer treatment. MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer two decades ago, Cathy Epp faced two choices: she could either laugh and win or cry and lose to cancer.

She chose to laugh.

"That was when I was in Manitoba," she said, talking about her biopsy and mastectomy that happened within three months of her diagnosis. "I lived in Thompson (Manitoba) and I had to fly back and forth to Winnipeg to see the doctor. It was, give or take, at least $1,000 round trip for one person. And I made four trips from the time I had my biopsy done."

Even though Epp was able to afford the financial strain, community support also came in handy.

"The Legion's Ladies' Auxiliary raised money for my prosthesis," she said. "This is why I like this project because the money stays in Orillia and goes to people that need the help."

Epp was referring to the Bras for a Cause campaign, a Show Your Support Orillia project started by Reverend Carmen Agius seven years ago.

Through this and other events, the non-profit collects and gives out funds to Orillia residents going through financial strain brought on by cancer treatments. To date, the organization has raised over $40,000 and has helped out more than 100 local families, said Luisa Cirimele, member of the organizing committee.

According to Donna Howlett, co-committee member, who helps deliver cheques to those in need, it's a heart-wrenching experience to bring support to those families that suffer in silence.

"The further you go into treatment the worse you get, and the funds we deliver help them out," she said. "I was privileged enough to deliver a cheque to someone recently, and they completely broke down. They are seriously worried about their finances and, in some cases, losing their house."

Entering a bra in the contest requires submission of a $25-pledge form, which is available online at showyoursupportorillia.com.

Epp is just one of the dozen Orillia and area residents to have submitted their creations, the top 10 of which will be auctioned off at the fundraiser, Bravember, being held at Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club on Nov. 5.

"This is the first year my husband and I designed a bra," she said. "And we agonized around how we were going to do it. I wanted to make it a glitzy one, because no woman should ever have to feel she has to wear ugly ill-fitting bras because she has had breast cancer. And we can all be beautiful."

Another reason for designing a flashy bra is to help take the focus off the illness.

"They are sick, but they know they're sick, so there's really no need to say that over and over again," said Severn resident Risha Yorke, who created the Wonder Woman bra on display at Dr. Comics in downtown Orillia. "Illness takes away a person's identity and they don't want to be known as the person with cancer, because there's so much more to them. Creating a community that recognizes they are still a person with interests and likes and dislikes is what is important."

Even though the campaign uses bras as a canvas, Howlett cautions against taking a narrow view of its reach. The funds are for any Orillia resident going through cancer treatment, she said.

Recipient referrals can be made online at showyoursupportorillia.com, through the Rotary Club or by calling the non-profit at 705-242-8061.

As well, more information on this Saturday's Todd Keirstead /Jack Latimer Tatas Tee Off Bra Fundraiser and tickets for Bravember are available at the Show Your Support Orillia website. Howlett added, people who can afford the $35 price tag but cannot make it to the event are encouraged to donate their seat.

mshahid@postmedia.com

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