Women's Center increases breast cancer awareness efforts

(Photo by Raychel Johnson) A sample of the decorated bras for the Bra Ha Ha contest located in the Women's Center on campus.
(Photo by Raychel Johnson) A sample of the decorated bras for the Bra Ha Ha contest located in the Women’s Center on campus.

In October, the leaves are changing and the fall colors are all around. Along with the oranges and reds of the changing leaves, students at Weber State University can also expect to see a lot more pink. With Breast Cancer Awareness Month in full swing, the WSU Women’s Center has a variety of activities and events planned, all of which have one goal in mind: to raise awareness for breast cancer.

Students can expect to see displays and events on campus throughout October, including presentations with speakers about breast cancer awareness. This year, the Women’s Center will also kick off the first Bra Ha Ha contest. Participants are encouraged to decorate a bra using any creative ideas and materials they can think of. These ideas can range from bras covered in ribbons and flowers to bras designed to look like masks or superhero costumes. Applicants will be judged on design and creativity.

“We are encouraging individuals to donate one of their bras decorated any way that they want,” said Carol Merrill, the director for the Women’s Center. “Students can even design a bra in honor of someone they know that has battled with breast cancer.”

Once submissions are in, the bras will be on display until Oct. 15. During that time, students will be able to vote for their favorite bra design.

Merrill said she and others at the Women’s Center have big hopes for the Bra Ha Ha event.

“We hope to get 50 bras in this year’s show,” Merrill said. “Ultimately we would like this big enough that we can have an exhibition and a reception for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

The Women’s Center is encouraging anyone interested in helping with the event to submit a bra no later than Oct. 10. Merrill and her staff are willing to help participants get started. For those interested in decorating a bra who don’t have one to decorate, the Women’s Center has received undecorated bras for use as blank canvasses.

Efforts to raise awareness for breast cancer are becoming more visible each year. Such efforts have been emphasized over the last few decades, but have been more aggressive over the last few years. Those who have been affected by breast cancer tend to see the raised awareness as a good thing. In fact, one needs to look no further than WSU’s own campus for those who have dealt with breast cancer.

Judy Elsley, the honors program director at WSU, battled successfully against breast cancer in 2012. Elsley said raising awareness is important for women of all ages.

“Early detection is the key,” she said. “The earlier it can be detected, the better your chances are of survival. Very often the women that are dealing with breast cancer are in their 30s. This is no longer a disease that affects older women.”

Marie Kotter, a former WSU professor and cancer survivor, also said raising awareness is important and people need to know more about the cancer.

“You need to help people not be afraid to get diagnosed,” she said. “Treatment has come a long way. People don’t know the good things that we can do now and that it is not as bad as it used to be.”

Kotter also pointed out that raised awareness leads to better treatment and improved medicines to help people survive the cancer.

“When I was diagnosed, there was a new drug that came out which attacks the cancer cells,” she said. “I am alive because of the development of these new drugs due to raised awareness of the cancer.”

The goal for Breast Cancer Awareness Month is simple and clear: There needs to be greater awareness for the disease and the treatments, regardless of age or status in life.

The Women’s Center is open to anyone interested in participating or helping with its activities this month. Information about Bra Ha Ha can be found at the center in the Shepherd Union Building, Room 322.