My journey finding interesting people in the ever-growing arena of breast cancer was strengthened by meeting Lou Ann Peck, Founder of Breast Intentions, Illinois Chapter. Lou Ann emailed me asking for a link off the Breast Cancer MyStory website to her organization. After checking out her organization, I added the link to our resources page, but didn’t let the link be the end of our conversation. My gut told me I needed to know her story.
Like many of the budding non-profits navigating the vast and growing sea of breast cancer, Breast Intentions has carved out a niche of supporting “those individuals and their families who are fighting breast cancer.” Their mission is “to help them deal with the consequences of this diagnosis by providing emotional, intellectual, spiritual and financial support and resources in their time of need.” Additionally it is their goal to encourage young women to take charge of their health by performing monthly breast self-examinations. A very big mission that came from the humble beginnings of two teenagers from Middletown, New Jersey. Yes, there is a story behind this story…
The origins of the parent organization are linked back to Erika Rech and cousin Mike Ruane in the year 2006 when three of their family members were diagnosed with breast cancer within months of each other. Erika and Mike, then just 14 years old, launched Breast Friends Forever (BFF) in December 2007 to financially assist breast cancer victims in their community. Little did they know what the ripple effects of selling $20 T-shirts and $1 bracelets would do to trigger an tsumami of support. Fast forward to 2010 and the BFF story hits Family Circle Magazine where Lou Ann Peck picks up the magazine in Illinois and reads their story. The second to last sentence jumped off the page to her, “They hope to expand by helping volunteers across the country set up chapters.” At that moment Lou Ann made their cause hers; she has been pushing full steam ahead, incorporating the Illinois Chapter at the end of 2010.
Not personally affected by breast cancer, Lou Ann felt the call to give back and this seemed like a right channel for her energies. Lou Ann shared her story of starting up Breast Intentions Illinois Chapter with me over breakfast, much of the time with her eyes teared over. Her passion overflowed when she shared, “I just want to help people get healthy. They have enough to deal with having breast cancer, they shouldn’t have to worry about being able to make ends meet.” Like many social entrepreneurs finding their way, Lou Ann and her growing group of dedicated volunteers have tried different ways to raise funds: galas, golf outings and other fund raisers. Some recent connections and “miracles” as she calls them, have brought people to her cause and her board that are moving the organization forward, enabling them to help more people affected by breast cancer.
The past year they’ve been busy ramping up to help breast cancer patients with the following: 13 mortgage payments, 8 medication co-payments, 11 co-payments, 21 electric bills, 14 gas bills, 2 sewer bills, 8 phone bills, 7 cable bills, 4 water bills, 18 rent payments, 1 maintenance fee, 5 car payments, 1 car repair, 2 garage bills, 2 tax bills, 2 health insurance premiums, 2 car insurance premiums, 1 wheelchair and 1 MRI. Additionally they purchased groceries/gift cards, gas cards, Christmas gifts, college text books, arranged lawn mowing and transportation from surgery. Hats off to Lou Ann and the Breast Intentions of Illinois organization for stepping up to make a difference locally in Illinois!
LouAnn and I shared a pot of coffee and talked about the dreams for our non-profits. Her big dream is to open multiple chapters throughout the state of Illinois – Champaign and Carbondale top her list for starters. She admits she simply can’t reach everyone in Illinois and needs help. Maybe someone will read this blog in another Illinois town and feel called to connect with Lou Ann and Breast Intentions. Why not? I think to myself. Maybe Breast Cancer MyStory can help Lou Ann and her organization grow just like Family Circle helped BFF find Lou Ann. And so goes out the challenge.
To learn more about Breast Intentions, visit their website at www.breastintentions.org or “Like” them on Facebook at Breast Intentions and Breast Intentions of Illinois. You can also contact Lou Ann directly at LouAnn@breastintentions.org. Breast Intentions, Inc. is a 501 (c ) 3 registered charity. All donations are tax deductible and are subject to matching. Their address is 327 National Drive, Shorewood, Illinois 60404.