Pair take a bead against cancer


November 16, 2008|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to The Baltimore Sun

In August 2006, Phyllis Penn began making bracelets to raise money for cancer awareness.

A few months later, Penn asked Sharon Meissner to join her fundraising efforts. Penn spends six months of the year in Florida and wanted someone to carry on with the bracelets, she said.

Although she had never made a bracelet, Meissner agreed to do it.

"My husband died of cancer 20 years ago, and my daughter has had cancer twice," said Meissner, of Bel Air. "And everyone in Phyllis' family, including Phyllis, has had cancer. We want to do whatever we can to help cancer patients and their families."

Meissner and Penn thought people would quickly lose interest in the bracelets, but two years later, sales are still going strong, Meissner said.

To date, they have raised about $82,000 that has been donated to the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation's Cancer LifeNet Program. For their efforts, Meissner and Penn recently received Unsung Hero Awards from the Maryland chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Meissner and Penn make the bracelets with members of the Chesapeake Cancer Alliance, a nonprofit group that Meissner helped start and that pays for the materials used to make the bracelets, she said. The bracelets are constructed using elastic string, sterling silver and multicolored cat's eye beads, and sterling or pink ribbon charms. They come in two designs, one for "Cancer Awareness" and one for "Breast Cancer," Meissner said.

The bracelets, which cost $20 each, are sold at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center and at cancer alliance fundraising events. People from as far away as Hawaii have purchased the bracelets.

"Anywhere I go, I see people wearing the bracelets, and I love to see that," Meissner said.

Meissner enjoys making the bracelets, she said. Usually she gets up in the morning and makes a few while she eats her breakfast, she said. Each one takes about 11 minutes to make. Despite the time commitment, she said it is worth it.

"The money we're raising is really needed," she said. "There are so many people out there who have cancer, but they don't have insurance. If they don't get treatment, they will die."

To buy a bracelet, call 410-638-0301.

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