The “10th-Annual Identity Crisis Fundraiser: A Decade of Inspiration! Come As You Are NOT!” will take place this month—Saturday, August 10. Let’s take a closer look at the history of one of Shepherdstown’s most supportive annual events, and how the funds raised are being used to beneficially impact local patients and survivors of breast and other types of cancers.
In the summer of 2010, a group of local women dressed up, many in wigs and extraordinary style, to try on a new look for a night of laughs and fun. Tara Sanders Lowe, event planner, realtor, and brainchild of this idea, thought a gathering where friends adopt a different identity would be unique and creative. The party was a hit, and something Lowe felt strongly needed to happen again.
By 2012, what came to be known as Identity Crisis transformed from an annual party into a larger community event channeling proceeds to local individuals in need. A call for possible organizations to partner with linked Lowe to Breast Cancer Awareness – Cumberland Valley (BCA-CV), a non-profit supporting local cancer patients, survivors, and their families.
In 2015, Lowe formed The Victory Project—a non-profit to support the work of serving the community through organizing charitable fundraising events. Founding board member Todd Coyle, a local musician and community organizer, was approached by Lowe with the idea of partnering to more impactfully move their service efforts into the future.
Through Coyle’s five years of partnership on The Victory Project board, he’s seen the Identity Crisis event transform “… from a party with nice people doing nice things to a part of the community. We’ve gotten serious!” So serious, in fact, that The Victory Project team, coupled with incredible community support, has enabled the Identity Crisis fundraiser to contribute over $60,000 to BCA-CV to date.
BCA-CV has been supporting local breast cancer patients for 30 years. What began as a small group of women driving to the National Institutes of Health office for brochures to learn more about a dear friend’s diagnosis, has evolved into a thriving non-profit organization providing a comprehensive collection of services and support. As current director Stacy Horst describes, “We’re here so no one has to face breast cancer alone.”
Horst started out with BCA-CV as a volunteer, eventually moving into a role on the board of directors. Before joining the organization, Horst witnessed her grandmother and mother, both cancer survivors, benefiting from the information, compassion, and material support available through BCA-CV. Now, in the role of executive director, Horst reflects on her work as incredibly rewarding.
BCA-CV offers free mammograms to those who are uninsured or underinsured. Horst shared that most of their mammogram and ultrasound program funds are spent in West Virginia. BCA-CV serves seven counties ranging from western Maryland, the Eastern Panhandle (WV), and southern Pennsylvania. Other funding assistance is available to help with financial costs for basic living expenses. Services including a free one-time house-cleaning or the Dinner’s Ready program, offering restaurant and/or grocery gift cards for patients going through chemotherapy or radiation, reflect BCA-CV’s goal of ensuring that people know that if you have a need, they will meet it.
BCA-CV also offers support groups, educational workshops, free breast prosthesis and bras, kids care packages, and information for partners and other caregivers. One particularly popular and impactful service, the Angel Program, pairs patients with volunteers who send them encouraging cards and gifts on a weekly basis while they go through treatment.
Victory Project board member Laura Stottlemyer recalls the services she received through BCA-CV while undergoing her own cancer treatment. It began with a care package she received at a doctor’s appointment. Included were a soft camisole, a post-surgery pillow, brochures, chap stick, a book, tissues in a hand-crocheted holder, and a stress ball.
Stottlemyer described going into BCA-CV’s Barb’s Boutique, where accessories like wigs and scarves can be tried on in a relaxing and supportive atmosphere to help patients rock their style and maintain a sense of their personality and confidence. “I pulled out my check book, wondering how much this would cost, and was then told it was all free. You worry about the financial debt, in addition to your health. It was such a huge sense of relief that this part was taken care of.”
Horst reports that 163 wigs were given out to patients last year—50 percent of whom were being treated for other types of cancer. Additionally, over 150 people were enrolled in the Moving Forward program, where patients receive post-surgery supplies and information to aid in their recovery. To that end, BCA-CV has a current staff of three employees, an active 20-member board of directors, and an amazing bank of volunteers Horst describes as “quite the crew!”
Variety of Options
This year, Identity Crisis is going back to its roots in creating a fun and fabulous opportunity for participants to Come as They are Not. This theme is about stepping outside of our day-to-day look to try on new fashion, or adopt a completely different style. Participants can come as their favorite character, or channel a star of music or film if they choose to dress in costume—or let their imaginations soar to create something entirely new.
One of the most beneficial aspects of this annual event is the wide variety of options for participation. The full package is the VIP experience. For $100, participants get shuttled from Shepherdstown to Shepherd’s Cove—a gorgeous retreat center located along the Potomac, owned by Len Frenkil and Julia David.
The VIP party offers all-inclusive foods from local chefs and restaurants, specialty drinks like made-to-order mojitos, a DJ for dancing, and a spectacular atmosphere for enjoying laughs, conversation, and beautiful natural views. VIP ticket holders are shuttled back to town after the party, where the streets will be lit up and red carpets rolled out for participants to enjoy drink specials at favorite spots like the Mecklenburg Inn. A dance party bookends the night at Town Run Tap House and Community Pub.
For those who would like to support the event, but may not be up for the full VIP experience, simply coming into town for a drink at participating locations, or just attending the dance party, are options. For those interested in a volunteer role, additional help is always needed. Individual donations or sponsoring a ticket are also possible through the website.
For more information, visit the above links and/or find Identity Crisis Fundraiser on Facebook.By Wendy Baracka, LICSW