Saturday, April 17, 2010

Surf, Skate, Create, and ...Advocate?

I found this organization as I was reading Women magazine; they are wildly creative. Keep-A-Breast (KAB) was founded in 2000 in San Diego, California, by Shaney Jo Darden and Mona Mukherjea-Gehrig. The two friends were inspired to join the advocacy community when Mona’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, but they knew they wanted to take a fresh approach that would incorporate their interests and appeal specifically to young people. Mixed in among the surf and skateboard gear retailers and thronged with crowds of young, hip women (and men), you might—almost—miss the fact that the tent you’ve entered at the event venue you’re checking out is in fact all about cancer. That is, until you spot the T-shirts for sale—which are emblazoned with a bright pink boobies! logo—and you start to read the signage and take in the fine print. It’s then that you realize you’re about to meet a very different kind of advocacy group.
With a target audience of women between the ages of 15 and 30, KAB has since developed a mission to “produce art events that increase breast cancer awareness among young people and benefit education, prevention, and treatment programs around the world.” The organization’s signature fundraising event has become its creation of one-of-a-kind plaster forms of the female torso, which are customized by internationally recognized artists and auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting such organizations as the Young Survival Coalition, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Breast Cancer Fund, the Asha Kilgallen-McGee Fund, Kapiolani Breast Center, and Europa Donna. Once the casts are made, they are shipped off to artists around the world—many of whom have been affected by breast cancer personally—who create their art on the surface. The results are truly incredible, and no two are the same. With images ranging from comic to abstract to representational, the plaster casts are returned for exhibit and sale, telling the stories of the hands that created them, exuding the power of the women whose forms they embody, and creating a powerful legacy of hope.
In addition to being displayed at auction openings and other fundraising events, some of the forms travel around the world to the many surfing, skateboarding, and music venues where KAB gets out the word about cancer prevention through its education booth. With educational videos, live art, breast self-exam cards, and other healthy-living information on display, the booth imparts both art and education. But it’s the young people who come through the booth and take part in these events, Shaney Jo says, who remain the inspiration for everything KAB does: “All our programs go back to our mission, which is to eradicate breast cancer by exposing young people to methods of prevention, early detection, and support, through art events, educational programs, and fundraising efforts. We seek to increase breast cancer awareness among young people so they are better equipped to make choices and develop habits that will benefit their long-term health and well being.” For more information about Keep-A-Breast, visit

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