WNC Advocacy keeps funds local as it helps underserved womenJoin the nonprofit for its Ride for Pink fundraiser Sept. 28
Karen Cioce was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2008. Next month will be the fifth anniversary of her diagnosis, but she’ll spend the occasion celebrating — she’s one of the nearly 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Cioce is not only a mortgage loan specialist at Champion Credit Union in Waynesville, but she’s also one of the founding members of WNC Advocacy, a group of local business owners who raise funds for breast cancer early detection and education.
“We’re all professionals in the area, and we’re known for our businesses — but what we aren’t known for is our nonprofit,” Cioce said.
In addition to Cioce, other WNC Advocacy board members include Bob LaBracio and his wife Lisa, Mike Black, Julie Coombs and Carolyn Brunk. The nonprofit was formed three years ago after Bob learned that a close friend’s mother, a three-time breast cancer survivor, succumbed to the disease.
“It finally beat her,” he said. “But she always had a smile on her face and a positive attitude. She’s the inspiration behind me wanting to do this.”
LaBracio saw that there was need in Haywood for a small nonprofit that kept all proceeds within the county, ensuring that the money raised went directly to local women. This aspect, he believes, sets WNC Advocacy apart from larger organizations like the Susan G. Komen Foundation, for example.
“We wanted to stay local,” he said. “All of the money stays in the community.”
WNC Advocacy’s largest fundraiser is its Ride for Pink, now in its third year. This year’s event will take place Saturday, Sept. 28 at Smoky Mountain Steel Horses, located at 82 Locust Drive in Waynesville. Registration will be from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and the escorted ride through Waynesville will begin at 12:30 p.m. Following the ride, there will be live entertainment, barbecue and beer until 5 p.m.
Tickets for the event cost $25 for each rider and $10 for a passenger; prices include the food.
The group raised about $11,000 its first year and $9,000 its second year. This year, LaBracio hopes to raise at least $10,000. The money, which is donated directly to the Haywood County Health Department, provides breast cancer education, free mammograms and screenings to qualifying underserved women in Haywood County.
Cioce knows what an important component education is to the fight against breast cancer. After her diagnosis, she was able to research holistic treatments, and spent three out of her six months being treated in Tijuana, Mexico, where part of her regimen included IVs of vitamin C and B that strengthened her body.
“I opted to do some of my treatments [in Mexico],” she said. “The doctors had a different philosophy in how to treat patients. I didn’t lose my hair, I had more energy and I felt better than I ever had in my life.”
As she finished the course of treatments in the United States, however, she began to lose her hair due to the chemotherapy — an experience that made her realize the difficulties women face as they go through treatments.
“I think the hardest part was the loss of my hair — that change in physical appearance, especially for a woman. But I bought seven different wigs in different colors and had fun,” she said with a laugh. “You can’t change it. You have to embrace it and know that one day there will be a cure. That’s what we’re all about — helping others who may not be as fortunate and giving back to the community.”
In the future, LaBracio hopes to expand the nonprofit so it can serve other counties in Western North Carolina in addition to Haywood.
“But we can’t do that without the proper funding allowing us to grow as a group,” he said.
Cioce added that WNC Advocacy would also like to expand its efforts beyond breast cancer in order to help as many people in the community as possible.
“I don’t know any family in this area who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way,” she said. “We want to help."
Current sponsors for Ride for Pink include Specialty Lock & Door, Champion Credit Union, First Citizens Bank, Haywood County Board of Realtors, the Oak Park Inn, ROCK 104.9, Massage Matters, Ingles and Walmart.
Individuals and businesses interested in sponsoring Ride for Pink or donating silent auction and raffle items can reach LaBracio by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 316-9697. Sponsorship levels include training ($50), which includes one rider admitted to the event; athletic ($100), which includes two paid riders in the event; underwire ($250), which includes a company banner and admission for two riders and non-riders; strapless ($500), which includes a company banner, exhibit space, paid admissions for three riders non-riders; and push-up ($750) and double D full support ($1,000), which include promotion in all marketing materials, a company banner and paid admission for four riders and non-riders and paid admission for five riders and non-riders, respectively.
More information is also available online at www.rideforpink.com.