Bras Across the Grand promotes breast cancer awareness

Hundreds of decorated bras were strung downtown Grand Rapids across the Gillett Pedestrian Bridge Saturday morning as part of the Bras Across the Grand event.

The 4th annual Bras Across the Grand event drew approximately 300 people, including 20 breast cancer survivors and other members of the community. A total of 70 breast cancer survivors were honored at the event.

What began in 2009 as an unconventional event sponsored by Townsquare Media has grown into a celebrated community event attracting sponsors such as Mercy Health and the American Cancer Society.

For $5, community members could decorate and hang a bra across the bridge, participate in a silent auction, enjoy refreshments and participate in healthy activities. The event also provided pampering stations for breast cancer survivors.

According to Tom Cook, program director for Townsquare Media’s Channel 95.7 and 100.5, Bras Across the Grand raises awareness for breast cancer and provides the community an opportunity to show support for breast cancer survivors.

“Anything that raises breast cancer awareness and promotes early detection and prevention is important,” Cook said. “The reality is, during October there are so many ‘pink’ type of events that you really need something interactive and visual to help break through the clutter and make people notice.”

Jaime Counterman, community representative for the American Cancer Society, also stressed Bras Across the Grand’s unique approach to breast cancer awareness.

“Breast cancer awareness activities can get lost in a sea of pink in October,” Counterman said, “and this event is very different from traditional activities, which helps give it a different angle.”

Cook said the event helps support families affected by breast cancer.

“We’ve had bras decorated by women who are survivors, husbands who lost their wives, siblings who watched their sister fight and kids who saw the devastating effects of cancer way too soon,” Cook said.

Counterman reflected on the importance of the event for those affected by breast cancer.

“This is more than just a gimmick,” she said. “It allows people to honor those fighting breast cancer and remember people they have lost to the illness. It’s more personal than just being about a bra — it’s the point behind it.”

Katherine Halloran, manager of public relations and communications for Mercy Health, discussed the event’s support of breast cancer survivors.

“This event celebrates each survivor by making the statement that she is not alone as she undergoes treatment and deals with being a survivor for the rest of her life,” she said.

Halloran said one in eight women will face the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Bras Across the Grand encourages women to visit the doctor regularly and get mammograms in order to detect breast cancer early.

The event has also attracted significant local media attention.

Jordan Carson, entertainment correspondent for WOOD TV8, stressed the importance of the event.

“What I love about this event is though [it] promotes awareness for breast cancer, it’s also a reminder for women and men everywhere to know their bodies and become knowledgeable about all types of cancers,” Carson said.

Rachael Ruiz, host of WOOD TV8’s eightWest, commented on the creative and unconventional nature of the event.

“It’s an extremely visual way to get the message out,” Ruiz said. “You can’t help but smile when you see all those beautiful and blinged out bras hanging across the river.”

The event’s popularity among sponsors and community members contributed to its financial success. This year, Bras Across the Grand exceeded its donation goal; approximately $23,000 was raised for breast cancer awareness.