Young Philanthropists Strut and Strike a Retro Pose at Boobyball

Boobyball was launched in 2002 by a group of dedicated young women in support of their friend Sarah O’Regan who, at just 23 years old, was diagnosed with aggressive, advanced breast cancer. Fast forward 16 years, and Boobyball is now one of the most high-profile fundraising events for young philanthropists in Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa and Winnipeg. Since its inception, Boobyball has raised over $4.2 million dollars for Rethink Breast Cancer’s work which supports young women concerned about and affected by breast cancer.  

This year’s soiree was hosted at Rebel nightclub, a jaw-dropping space designed by Toronto’s own Studio Munge. Boobyball 2017 aimed to promote regular physical activity, which can help reduce a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and aid in recovery. Guests were transported into the 80s and 90s, celebrating a time when leotards and legwarmers led the fashion trends, shoulder pads and scrunchies were an everyday accessory and where one wouldn’t be caught without a windbreaker or Wayfarers when hitting the streets.

Party goers battled it out with aerobic dance-offs, enjoyed tasty treats from Toronto’s own STK, Sweet Jesus, and the The Food Dudes, while swigging suds by Beau’s, neon cocktails by Teapigs and Tito’s Handmade vodka and divine wines from Meiomi and Kim Crawford all the while listening to memorable old school beats by DJ Brains4brkfst.

The Topshop get physical lounge donated another $1– for every guest willing to sweat it out on their pink retro bikes. Retro-hair touch-ups and mini manis were offered by Her Majesty’s Pleasure and personal retro photos taken by The Kit. Party goers further enjoyed YM magazine and Nintendo photo ops whilst eating Krispy Kremes and trying their hand at nostalgic arcade games. There was something for all stages and ages, a party to remember and never be missed!

Interview with MJ Decoteau, Founder & Executive Director of Rethink Breast Cancer

For this year’s Boobyball, what can attendees expect? Do you have some specific goals or milestones that Rethink is looking to achieve with this year’s fundraiser?

Our Boobyballers LOVE our fun themes! Some guests show off a subtle, fashionable nod to the theme and some go full on costume party. This year’s theme: Get Physical gives our young crowd a chance to dress up in their best 80s and 90s apparel. Guests can expect to see people shimmying in lycra, legwarmers, shoulder pads and scrunchies to the soundtrack of our youth. A major milestone this year will be going truly coast to coast with Boobyball in 5 major cities from Vancouver to Halifax.

In your opinion what are the most common misconceptions of breast health?

Awareness of breast cancer as an important cause is high but there are still far too many young people that don’t know the facts. And, while social media has certainly amplified our organization’s reach we are also up against internet rumours, which spread really far and wide too. It’s a challenge. We hear everything from underwire bras causing breast cancer (they don’t) to women assuming that if their breasts are small they don’t need to worry about breast cancer (also not true). A really common misconception is that people think screening mammograms are prevention. There isn’t any simple way to “prevent” breast cancer but you can help reduce your lifetime risk of getting it by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer may experience isolation as well as challenges with dating, sexuality, fertility, childcare, finances, and employment, how can Rethink help women facing some of these issues?

Our model is to educate, empower and advocate. When a young woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, being prepared for what is about to unfold can help her cope better. We work with young women with breast cancer to develop age appropriate resources, including excellent “how to” videos. Storytelling is also hugely helpful so we share a lot of profiles on our blog. We’ve built a pretty incredible community for young women through our RYWN (Rethink Young Women’s Network). Our private Facebook group for young women with breast cancer is where young women facing breast cancer can ask questions, get support and feel less alone.

Your team has created content that is fresh, educational, buzz-worthy, and most importantly, speaks to a younger audience like Save the Boobs and Man Breast videos, the new “Your Man Reminder” app, the About Her short film documentary and the LiveLaughLearn campaign. Has one been more successful to the cause than the others and might there be anything new coming down the pipeline we can look forward to?

They have all been successful in different ways. Something like Your Man Reminder has mass appeal and is for a mass public audience so the reach has been huge. Our Live Laugh Learn series is for our more niche audience of young women dealing with breast cancer themselves. While the reach isn’t as high, they have a hugely positive impact on young women dealing with breast cancer. We will continue working with incredible agencies and freelancers to develop beautiful, inspiring “hero” content. At the same time, we want to start producing more and more in house too—quick Buzzfeed style videos that engage our digital first generation of young supporters. Keep your eye on our YouTube channel too. We are “rethinking” what we do in that space but you’ll have to wait and watch to see what we’re gonna put out next.

Any final thoughts and points of wisdom…

The breast cancer cause has come a long way in the past few decades. When my mom was diagnosed in the late 80s, breast cancer was something quite closeted and whispered about. While there has been a lot of research and awareness of the cause is pretty huge, there is still a lot that has to be done and improved. Sometimes, the huge awareness about the cause can make people a little complacent. The public can think things are taken care of or not as urgent. At Rethink Breast Cancer, we feel a huge amount of urgency with many issues, especially because young women with breast cancer are more likely to have their breast cancer recur or metastasize to other body parts, making it terminal. And that’s why we’ve ramped up our advocacy efforts. Our bold (sometimes cheeky) education and heartfelt support will continue and our next challenge is to engage our young audience in change-making at the policy levels. We’ll make it cool in typical Rethink style!

By Melissa Dennie Photos Ryan Emberley

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