Supporting cancer awareness

45 entrants concoct bra designs for contest aimed at encouraging breast examinations

October 29, 2006|By SUSAN GVOZDAS | SUSAN GVOZDAS,Special to The Sun

Cancer is not a stranger to Pam Schweitzer's family. She and her brother survived colon cancer. A cousin and a sister-in-law have breast cancer. Another cousin died of the disease.

But it took a little nudging from a friend to get her to enter a local breast cancer awareness contest calling for decorating plain white bras with fabric, paint, sequins and feathers.

"My friend said, `This is right up your alley,'" said Schweitzer, 58, of Crofton.

An avid and meticulous quilter, Schweitzer did not think she had enough time to create an entry with three weeks left before the Oct. 11 deadline. She plunged ahead anyway, using a pincushion design that she had sold at a church bazaar. She sewed on two chickens eyeing each other from each lightly padded cup and embellished the fabric with grass and flowers.

She included with her entry, "A Couple of Spring Chickens," a note reading: "These old clucks never forget cancer screenings." The judges awarded her first place.

"The whole thing has been one big laugh fest," Schweitzer said.

The second annual bra art competition, sponsored by the Annapolis Quilt Guild, Anne Arundel Medical Center and the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, is designed to draw attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which ends Tuesday. This year's competition drew 45 entries, up from 11 last year, said Lindsay Allen, health educator for the health department.

Anne Krause, 37, of Severna Park won second place for her entry, "Bug These Ladies About a Mammogram." A teenager from Norfolk, Va., won third place for "Glass Cups." The winning bras are on display at the South County Senior Center in Edgewater until Saturday.

Winners received gift baskets of mugs, bracelets and calendars with stickers reminding women to check themselves once a month.

"It's just so amazing that someone would appreciate my artwork," Schweitzer said. "You can actually google me. I have arrived."

The win has a deeper meaning for Schweitzer, who eight years ago learned that she had colon cancer. Her diagnosis encouraged her brother to get checked, and he, too, was successfully treated for the disease.

Regular screenings provide the best chance for survival of any cancer, she said.

"There is no reason for any woman to die of colon cancer, breast cancer or cervical cancer," she said.

Krause learned about the contest last year when she and her employer, Crosby Marketing Communications in Annapolis, did pro bono advertising work for the health department. She saw last year's winners on display in the department's hallways.

This year, Krause, who has a master's degree in health education, encouraged her co-workers to create entries in a friendly officewide competition. Some people formed teams and worked on the bras over lunch, resulting in 16 entries from the agency.

Krause adapted the idea for her toddler's Halloween ladybug costume for her "Bug These Ladies" entry. Each cup is the top of a ladybug with black pompom spots. Six pipe-cleaner legs emerge from inside each cup. Green felt and plastic grass cover the sides, and butterflies alight on each strap.

Also from Crosby, Christine Heinsohn, 23, and co-worker Ron Ordansa, 43, created "Abracadabra," which won an honorable mention. Heinsohn came up with the idea after trying to list words that had "bra" in them.

Heinsohn and Ordansa used fabric to create a top hat on one cup and a wizard hat on the other. Under each hat was the word "Abra." A second layer of fabric reveals "Cadabra" underneath. Metal handcuffs attached to the back of the bra symbolize magician's escape tricks, Heinsohn said.

Krause's co-worker Denise Aube also won an honorable mention for "A Girl's Best Friend." She painted the bra a glittery silver and hot glued rhinestones in flower designs onto the cups. She sewed white ribbons on the straps and a bright blue card to make the bra resemble a gift from Tiffany & Co.

Aube, 46, of Annapolis said she chose the theme from one of her favorite books, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She said the book reminds women that they need to hold on to their jewelry and money to make sure they will be able to take care of themselves.

"This was my way of saying you need to take care of your bodies," Aube said.

The project caught the interest of her preteen daughter and three stepsons. "They were more interested in the fact that it was a competition," Aube said.

A good friend of Aube's is struggling with breast cancer, and Aube thought the project would be her way of helping.

"If we can get one woman to go out and get a breast exam, then we know that we have achieved what we wanted to do," she said.

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