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Protect Our Breasts runs Breast Cancer Awareness campaign

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(Courtesy of Protect Our Breasts Organization)

(Courtesy of Protect Our Breasts Organization)

For the month of October, Protect Our Breasts is running a Breast Cancer Awareness campaign in recognition of those affected by the disease, whether directly or indirectly. The Voices of Awareness Campaign, a social media project, intends to give voices to these people.

Protect Our Breasts is a non-profit organization that educates young women about environmental toxins and their contributions to breast cancer. This interdisciplinary initiative brings together marketing and biology for students to research discoveries and find safer alternatives in everyday products.
Started at the University of Massachusetts in 2011 by marketing professor Cynthia Barstow, the organization now has five chapters located across the Northeast – UMass, Trinity College, Bates College, Baypath College and Syracuse University.

The board members at the UMass chapter include Head of Chapter Development Alysse Foley, Social Media Manager Elise Quebec, Campaign Manager Keely Griffin, Voices of Awareness Campaign Manager Kelsie Mitchell, Science and Content Director Lia Delaney, UMass Chapter Liason Mary Lynch and Head of Public Relations Natasha Merchant.

In order to kick off the Voices of Awareness Campaign, Merchant helped put together a video promoting its efforts. The video, which can be found on the Protect Our Breasts Facebook page and YouTube page, features students sharing their experiences with breast cancer.

According to Mitchell, “Voices of Awareness Campaign is to really connect with our community at our different chapters and connect with young voices about how breast cancer has affected their lives and how Protect Our Breasts educates young women to be aware that they can start prevention now.”

Through social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, individuals share their stories about how they have been affected. After reviewing the submissions from students, Mitchell said, “We get a lot about how breast cancer has affected their mothers and their grandmothers.”

Students are also beginning to understand what they can do when it comes to this disease.

“They’re realizing that if they start to choose clean products then they can prevent breast cancer,” Mitchell said.

Protect Our Breasts is doing daily highlights of these submissions throughout the month that include quotes and the #VoicesofAwareness to spread awareness.

“These are the people that we’re trying to help and we’re putting a face to the people who we’re helping,” Mitchell said.

Senior Lia Delaney believes Protect Our Breasts is fully taking advantage of Breast Cancer Awareness Month when many are thinking about this disease, but doing so in a unique way.

“We’re differentiating ourselves from a lot of other organizations because they focus on awareness and the cure but we really want to work on empowering women,” she said.

“By giving them a voice during this month, this is really our messaging in that we’re attempting to let people know that not only do they have a say in their own feelings and emotions about the disease but also that there’s a way to prevent it,” Delaney added. “We open up these channels of communication but we’re also trying to inform people about these preventions throughout the month.”

Delaney said the idea came from what Protect Our Breasts does as an organization.

“A lot of what we do is about talking to people and empowering other people to say something and make a change so during this campaign we really wanted to make that transparent,” she said.

Delaney even compared this campaign to the popular photo blog and bestselling book, “Humans of New York.”

“You take a snapshot and you give someone a voice for just a second,” she said. “Whether it’s a simple idea or it’s something a little bit bigger, you highlight it for everyone to see.”

Some of the organization’s visibility on campus includes talks with sororities, clubs, management and public health classes, as well as the UMass Marketing Club.

Through Mission 7,500, Protect Our Breasts is hoping for 7,500 likes on Facebook by the end of the month to increase this visibility.

“When someone likes our page,” Lynch said, “it opens the conversation and it gives them information to save their own life or to save their loved ones lives.”

Events going on during the week include Wednesday’s Sustainability Fair in Goodell Hall, where Protect Our Breasts will be tabling from 12-3 p.m. On Thursday from 6:30-8:30 p.m., the group will be at the Farmers’ Market at the Commonwealth Honors College and will speak on panel at the event.

There will be a barbeque at the Northeast Quad Friday with music and a table where students can write the names of loved ones who have been affected by breast cancer.

For Halloween, Protect Our Breast will be promoting safer alternatives to candy.

Overall, the Voices of Awareness Campaign has been seen as being successful. “We’ve received a lot of attention from different people,” Merchant said.

For the board members, however, each has her own hopes for the campaign and what it will bring to the UMass community.

“My goal for this campaign was to really empower all of our chapters, have them go out on their own, and go into their communities and find these people and share these stories,” Foley said. “It is making us a whole Protect Our Breasts community. It really has become one cohesive group that is standing all over the Northeast.”

One can find more information at www.protectourbreasts.org or at their Facebook page.

Julia McLaughlin can be reached at [email protected]

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