By Dan Harkins
DEBARY - The stable at Historic DeBary Hall was packed on Sunday with dozens of decorated bras, bedazzled to the straps, and donors trying to get their hands on these one-of-a-kind artistic expressions.
The one with the wrinkly pug faces as bra cups. The St. Patty's, Easter or Christmas-themed undergarments. The Mardi Gras-themed bra nicknamed "Groovy."
"There's a little something for everyone," marveled Mary Jo Burdick, who winters in Ormond Beach and had a few raffle tickets in the mix. "If I don't win, at least I got to see them all."
Since 2009, the Braz Cauz effort has provided the funding for hundreds of women to receive free mammograms and electronic imaging services for the early detection of breast cancer at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial.
Last year, about 100 women received free screenings. In previous years, that number has been over 200.
"One-hundred percent of every dollar we raise goes to that fund and impacts the lives of so many people in our community," said Debi McNabb, director of the Florida Hospital Fish Memorial Foundation, which helps to organize the annual fundraiser.
A total of 43 donations were made on Sunday, about three-fourths of which were bras decorated by artists that became the centerpieces of a multifaceted selection of gift baskets.
This year, the Braz Cauz auction was held in conjunction with a Pink Feet road race at DeBary Hall, along with a block party there attended by hundreds to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. DeBary Hall and Braz Cauz will split the proceeds, Ms. McNabb said.
While undergoing chemotherapy in summer 2009, Braz Cauz founder and breast cancer survivor Shawn-Marie Batchelder got an e-mail from her sister with the photo of a funny bra attached. At the same time, she was discovering that even some of her health care providers weren't getting annual mammograms - either out of fear or lack of funds.
She and friend Susan Bauerle founded Braz Cauz a few months later, in partnership with another friend, Diana Fish, who made the raffle part of the hospital's Pink Ribbon Tea Luncheon every October.
The fundraiser made $20,000 last year, although this year's total might not be as high as that, Ms Batchelder said.
That's because this is the first year the drawing hasn't been held in conjunction with the hospital's luncheon, attended by about 500 women every year. Financial cutbacks led the hospital to downsize the affair.
"Next year," Ms. Batchelder said, "if we can't go to the tea, I think we might have our own."
To donate money to Braz Cauz or to inquire about free screenings, call (386) 917-5608.