The Olive Branch of Hope Breast Cancer Support Services is aiming to spread its wings from a community-based organization to a provincial and national body as it approaches its 10th anniversary, says founding president and breast cancer survivor, Leila Springer.
“Wherever there are pockets of Black women affected by the disease, that’s where we want to be,” she said at the organization’s ninth annual “Gala of Hope” fundraiser last Saturday night. “It’s so important that they get the message of hope wherever they are and that they understand that breast cancer affects us in such a way that the percentage of Blacks that die from it is so much higher than White women. We get a more aggressive form and usually it’s fatal.”
Breast cancer is the leading cause of death among middle-aged women and Springer, who is also president of the World Conference on Breast Cancer Foundation, has developed a passion to help those afflicted with the disease in Canada’s Black community cope with the distress and crises associated with cancer.
“I think it’s critical that we spread the word that women and men, who also get breast cancer, take care of themselves and not wait until after they are diagnosed,” she said. We are a family, an advocate and voice and we are here to support patients and take action to fuel life-saving research driven by real values and real people.”
Springer acknowledged the organization’s supporters, including co-founder Eugenie Gardner who lost her eight-year battle with cancer in December 2008. One of the organization’s seven founding members, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2000. Gardner often reached out to the support group by sharing stories of her courageous life and valuable information she picked up on the disease at conferences she attended in Canada and the United States.
“Eugenie is still very much in our hearts because she was an integral part of the organization,” said Springer.
The Olive Branch introduced its new board chair Juliet Creary at the fundraiser.
“I attended the gala five years ago and was immediately impressed by what I saw,” said the registered nurse. “I felt that this is an organization that I needed to be more involved in…My vision is to increase its visibility and get more funds to do the work we do well.”
The funds raised from last Saturday’s fundraiser will be used to enhance existing programs.