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Group raises money for research

Danie Harrelson

— Community efforts to raise funds for breast cancer research and treatment continue to garner support as the idea of raising breast cancer awareness spreads across cities in the United States.

Nine women in Steamboat Springs took the familiar idea and breathed some new life into it.

“Life!” The Breast Cancer Awareness Project originated last month to raise funds for uninsured women and underinsured women in need of financial assistance for mammograms or breast cancer treatment.

The nonprofit organization partnered with Northwest Colorado Aid and Support and set a goal of collecting $10,000 within a year.

AT&T Broadband contributed $4,000 as part of its policy of awarding grants to AT&T employees involved in nonprofit community projects. Debbie Curd, general manager of the Steamboat AT&T Media Services office, chairs the group and applied for the grant.

Last year, Curd and several of her AT&T colleagues produced a show about breast cancer survivors to air on local programming.

They used the same concept this year to feature more breast cancer survivors but expanded their interviews to include spouses, doctors and dieticians. The women on the committee wanted to take their support for awareness efforts to a higher level, Curd said.

“We wanted to make sure that women are taking care of themselves by giving them access to information about breast cancer and the means to have mammograms or help with treatment expenses,” she said.

Breast cancer treatment can exceed $20,000 in one year. The project’s funds would help to cover travel and child-care costs that are not covered by insurance, Curd said.

Women in need of financial assistance for mammograms or breast cancer treatment should contact Jan Fritz, director of home care with Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, at 879-1632.

Fritz said the money would be allocated fairly to those who needed financial assistance. Many women either lack insurance or their insurance does not cover mammograms or extra expenses that accompany breast cancer treatment, she said.

“We decided if we could raise some more money this year, we wanted to give these women the chance to have this,” she said. “What we’re saying is it’s important enough to get it done.”

The project fills the void that once existed in the Yampa Valley, Fritz said, by providing funds for uninsured and underinsured women to get mammograms and better afford breast cancer treatment.

Holly Rodgers, a mortgage loan officer with Vectra Bank Mortgage, first donated her time to raising breast cancer awareness in August when she participated in a three-day walk from Fort Collins to Denver. She continued her involvement by joining the committee.

The absence of her own personal attachment to any breast cancer survivors drove her to do something, Rodgers said.

“I have not had any people close to me deal with breast cancer,” she said. “I really feel fortunate. This is a way for me to pay back my gratitude for being so fortunate.”

Rodgers said she appreciates the project’s local emphasis.

Unlike the Race for the Cure and other fund-raisers for breast cancer awareness, she said, the funds raised by the project help women in the Yampa Valley only.

Despite the recent shift of donations to relief efforts in New York, the project should come close to meeting its $10,000 goal, said Julie Brown of Steamboat Resorts and a committee member.

“When we first started, we were a little concerned with how much people would be willing to donate,” Brown said. “But I was surprised with how much people did donate.”

The support of local corporations, including Steamboat Health and Recreation, Steamboat Motors, Boomerang’s and the Yampa Valley Business and Professional Women’s group have contributed to fund-raising efforts, she said.

Brown, a breast cancer survivor, said she wants to use her experience to improve the lives of women who are battling breast cancer and those who are uninformed about the disease.

“We want to make sure that women who need it are helped,” Brown said.

The women are determined to keep it going as long as a need exists. “This isn’t a one-time deal,” Curd said. “It’s a long-term mission.”


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