Old Bras Get New Lift

In this case, there’s no such thing as too many bras. From padded bras to fancy bras to watermelon-sized bras, the undergarments are being collected at various sites around the Tampa Bay area. Every day, a few hundred are tied together, and more bras arrive in the mail to lengthen the chain.

For a few weeks now, Star 95.7 has been asking people to donate new or used bras in order to raise awareness about breast cancer and the importance of early detection for “Bras Across the Bay.” On Friday, the bras will be tied together and stretched between Martin Luther King Blvd. and Tampa Bay across Dale Mabry Hwy., and Jeff and Jen, hosts of the Star 95.7 morning show, will make a statement regarding breast cancer.

“We’re going to hold (the bras) up as a sign of unity for our community and for our survivors,” said Tammy Beardsley, promotion director for the radio station.

Beardsley said they have already begun connecting the bras and work on the project every day. The only bras that cannot be accepted are strapless, because they can’t be tied to others.

The original plan was to get access to Friendship Trail, the old Gandy Bridge. But when the suggestion was proposed to Pinellas County Commissioners, it was denied because they thought the idea of stretching a series of bras across the bay would be offensive.

The publicity received after the denial has created a whirlwind of support throughout the Tampa Bay area, including USF.

Nonie Slaughter, catering director for Sodexho on campus, first heard about the “Bras Across the Bay” project while driving to work. Because many of her friends and family had been affected by cancer, she thought this would be something ideal for USF to be involved with. While donating bras, Slaughter hoped the message of early detection would come across to the women at USF.

“There are a lot of old bras on this campus,” Slaughter said.

“People need to understand disease is not a bigot; disease does not discriminate.”

Slaughter said she has dealt with the issue of breast cancer many times. When her father died, her aunt couldn’t come to the funeral because she was being treated for the cancer – she is now a survivor.

“I don’t think there’s anybody on this campus who hasn’t known somebody that hasn’t died of breast cancer,” Slaughter said. “I would love it if USF raised more bras than any other entity in the greater Tampa Bay area.”

Amy Simon, coordinator for Volunteer USF, said the collection at USF has received a few curious looks, but people want to know what the project is about.

“We’re trying to get people to know about the cause,” Simon said.

Because Slaughter thought more people should be donating, she called Star 95.7, which further publicized the event at Patio Tuesday last week. Slaughter herself collected nine bras between her and a friend. She went through her clothing and picked out the bras that had irritated her in the past few months and stowed them away for donation.

The chain may have to be looped around the area reserved for it, and Star 95.7’s goal is to get around Raymond James Stadium next year.

“We plan to ball them (the bras) up and save them for next year,” Beardsley said. “We really want to continue this.”

Despite the initial drawback, Beardsley said the reaction to the project has been positive. Madison at Soho, an apartment community, donated $2,500 to the cause, and Kinkos is serving as a drop off for bras. Also, Jacobsons, which closed last week, donated $1,700 for prosthesis and prosthesis bras, imitation breasts for cancer survivors.

Beardsley said the American Cancer Society has backed the program and has brought credibility to the event. Slaughter said the manner in which the statement about breast cancer is made is irrelevant.

“If you put some humor into it, it catches people’s attention,” she said. “(But) a bra is something all women wear.”

In addition to the undergarments, “Bras Across the Bay” is also collecting monetary donations and is looking for volunteers to hold up the link of bras on Friday. USF will continue to collect bras through tomorrow.

“I would like to see more statistics on survivors than people who actually die from this disease,” Slaughter said.

Contact Lindsay Fosterat oraclefeatures@yahoo.com