Bras for Cause stories of hope: Voting begins Oct. 1

Bras for Cause

When Haylee Hardin discovered a suspicious lump, friends and family tried to reassure her that she was too young to get cancer. Unfortunately, those encouraging words didn’t prevent the 25-year-old from being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.

To make matters worse, Haylee’s diagnosis came just two months after her boyfriend learned he had testicular cancer; and the young couple found themselves in a difficult position.

“We were not financially prepared for cancer,” she said, sitting at a table in Center Court at Valley River Center in Eugene, surrounded by craft supplies. Haylee is one of dozens of people who have decorated bras as part of the Bras for Cause fundraiser to support patients through Oregon Cancer Foundation (OCF).

“When the bills began to pile up, OCF was the first place we were able to receive help.”

Haylee talks openly about her experience with cancer, because she now understands the difficulties that arise and how vital it is for patients to have access to financial assistance, education and support, which OCF provides.

A colorful expression of support
This is the seventh year for the Bras for Cause fundraiser. Earlier this month, participants gathered at two community Build-a-Bra events—the first at Valley River Center and the second at Along Came Trudy in Springfield—and decorated bras that are as unique as their creators, who range from children to adults.

Kurt Petersen and his family have participated in Bras for Cause for three years, but this year’s bra might just be his most unique: a hot pink bra, sporting a stuffed ferret, appropriately titled “Ferret Out and Cure Cancer.”

“We have family members who have been affected by cancer, and this is a simple way that we can show our support,” he said.

Kelly Barton, who is currently undergoing cancer treatment, is helping to create two bras this year—one for her employer, Timber Products Company, and the other on behalf of the “My Breast Friends 5K,” a community event she organized in June to raise funds for OCF.

“It’s not just the financial assistance that OCF provides that is so important. It’s knowing that the foundation is there to help in other ways, though its Survivorship Series and classes,” she said. “If you’re not sure where to find resources, they will help you with that. And that’s huge when you’re dealing with cancer.”

As a cancer survivor, Laura Winner said she’s touched by the community’s involvement in Bras for Cause.

“We all know somebody who’s being affected by this disease. And, for the community to come out and support that, they’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re here for you. We’re here to support you on your journey,’ and I think that’s amazing,” she said.

Coming up next
Now that all the bras have been created for this year’s Bras for Cause fundraiser, it’s time to rally the community to vote for their favorites. Voting happens Oct. 1 – 31 online at $1 = 1 vote and you can vote as many times as you’d like.

Creations revealed
Come see all the colorful bra entries on display at the annual Reveal Party at Dandelions Flowers & Gifts on Monday, Oct. 1. This event is free to attend and fun for the whole family.

Don’t miss the fun finale
Bras for Cause culminates with the Girls Night Out celebration. Grab your girlfriends and celebrate at this woman-inspired event and enjoy dinner, music, a silent auction, games and a fashion show, featuring local cancer survivors.

  • When: Friday, Nov. 2, 6 p.m.
  • Where: Venue 252 at 252 Lawrence St., Eugene
  • Tickets: $50/each. Tickets available at

Haylee Hardin, Kelly Barton and Laura Winner, along with seven other survivors, will be featured in the Girls Night Out fashion show. Through it all, the ups and the downs, these women exude a positive attitude and inspirational strength that they hope to share with others.

“Every day is a gift, and going through cancer has helped me see that,” Haylee said. “Now, I want to do what I can to show other survivors that they don’t have to do this alone. There’s help available through Oregon Cancer Foundation.”


Breast cancer survivor Haylee Hardin works on her Bras for Cause entry.


Kurt Petersen models his bra creation, titled “Ferret Out and Cure Cancer.”


Survivor Kelly Barton and friends pose with her “My Breast Friends 5K” bra.


The Breast Care Team at Northwest Surgical Specialists create their bra, worn by survivor Charity Crosby.

Bras for Cause launches earlier this year

Bras for CauseThe annual Bras for Cause campaign, Oregon Cancer Foundation’s most colorful fundraiser, will kick off in September, with the goal of raising $100,000 to support patients undergoing cancer treatment in Lane County.

The concept is simple: We invite community members and local businesses to decorate a bra, then we showcase them online at and in-store at Dandelions Flowers & Gifts in Eugene, and encourage the community to donate by voting for their favorites.

“We are 100% donation-funded and 100% local,” says OCF Executive Director Amy Johnston. “The money raised through Bras for Cause contributes immensely to our annual fundraising and allows us to continue to fulfill all of the requests that we receive for financial assistance.”

Ready, set, create!
Bras for Cause 2018 gets underway on Thursday, Sept. 13, with the first of two Build-a-Bra events. Bring your family, friends and co-workers, or come solo and enjoy an evening of fun. Bras and art supplies are provided – or bring your own, if you’d like!

Build-a-Bra event No. 1 (Best for individuals)

Build-a Bra event No. 2 (Best for businesses and groups)

Deadline to submit your bra creation to Oregon Cancer Foundation’s office or Dandelion’s Flowers and Gifts is Monday, Sept. 24, at 8 a.m.

Voting begins
Come see all the colorful bra entries on display at the annual Reveal Party at Dandelions Flowers & Gifts on Monday, Oct. 1. This event is free to attend and fun for the whole family.

A fun finale
Bras for Cause wraps up with its annual Girls Night Out celebration. Grab your girlfriends and celebrate at this woman-inspired event. Enjoy dinner, music, a silent auction, games and a fashion show, featuring and celebrating local cancer survivors.


Finding support and resources through OCF

Viki Berry

When Viki Berry was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, she was more than rattled by the news.

“I kept thinking, how did I get cancer? What did I do that caused this to happen?” Viki recalls.

It took Viki some time to wrap her head around her diagnosis. But once she came to terms with what she was facing, she chose to be an advocate for her health, both physically and emotionally. Viki sought treatment at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, as well as support through a variety of resources, including Oregon Cancer Foundation.

“I knew early on that I had to take care of me, and that’s not a selfish thing,” she says.

Viki made physical activity a priority, finding time to exercise—from yoga to walking to step aerobics classes—even when she was fatigued from treatment or didn’t feel like moving.

“Sometimes, it’s a struggle, and I have to give myself the OK to take it easy. There are times that I go to step class and I don’t use the step, or I give myself frequent breaks. But I know that physical activity is good for my body, so I force myself to move.”

Support and information
A cancer diagnosis brings with it a host of emotions, and many people, like Viki, would rather not burden their families with their worries and fears. Viki joined a blood cancer support group through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which allowed her to connect with other survivors and to gather insight from their experiences.

Viki also attends the NOURISH: Food for Life nutrition and cooking classes, a partnership between OCF, Positive Community Kitchen (PCK) and Whole Foods Market. The classes, taught by PCK president Shanna Hutton and held monthly, at no charge, offer cancer survivors nutrition information, as well as demonstrations on how to prepare meals that are gluten-free and feature seasonal ingredients.

“A lot of people think they understand the properties in foods, like fats, carbs, fiber and such, but they don’t typically understand which foods help with inflammation,” Viki says. “Shanna is very knowledgeable and she knows what is in different types of foods and how it impacts the body.”

For more information on the NOURISH classes or to watch a cooking demonstration, click here.

Series on Survivorship
In addition to her on-going support group, Viki participated in Oregon Cancer Foundation’s Series on Survivorship, a 10-week series for cancer survivors that explores issues that often arise after treatment ends. Topics include how to manage anxiety, fears and other emotions; exploring forms of self-care and healing; understanding how relationships are impacted by cancer; and learning how to eat and exercise to be healthy and reduce the risk of recurrence.

“The Survivorship Series was another way for me to talk about the situations I was going through and get ideas and advice on how I could handle them,” Viki says. “It gave me the opportunity to hear about other people’s experiences and glean useful information from them.”

Planning for the next Survivorship Series is underway. There is no cost to attend. Survivors may participate on their own, or they can ask a spouse, partner or caregiver to attend with them. For more information and to pre-register, contact Amy Johnston at or call 541.632.6354.

For Viki, tapping into Oregon Cancer Foundation’s resources has been as valuable to her as the medical treatment she’s received. And she regularly shares with other survivors information about services available in the community.

“When I talk with a survivor who says they don’t feel like they have the support they need, I always ask, “Have you heard about Oregon Cancer Foundation?'” Viki says. “Cancer can be a very isolating illness. But OCF is there to help in so many ways. I want people to know that the foundation is available to them.”


Breast cancer survivors receive support from those tough enough to wear pink


When the Eugene Pro Rodeo rolls around each July, Jaymie Woods sees pink.

Jaymie and her family don pink one night of the rodeo each year for Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night, to raise awareness about breast cancer and to support survivors through Oregon Cancer Foundation’s Financial Assistance Program.

“I lost my mom to breast cancer in 2005,” Jaymie says. “She was a spirited, loving woman and losing her was devastating.”

Jaymie’s mom, Karla Defoe, had a passion for people and horses. Alongside her husband, Major Defoe, she was a driving force in resurrecting the Eugene Pro Rodeo, which is now entering its 27th year and draws competitors and spectators from around the United States.

Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night, and the rodeo itself, is truly a family affair. Jaymie’s father, Major Defoe, her brother and sister, as well as their spouses and children all play a role in organizing, operating and participating in the event each year.

After her mother’s passing, Jaymie and her family wanted to find a way to honor Karla and to help support breast cancer survivors in the community, so Jaymie reached out to OCF Executive Director Amy Johnston.

“I called Amy and I spilled my guts to her. I said, ‘What can we do?'” Jaymie says. “I wanted to know that the money we were going to raise would go directly to patient assistance. And with OCF, I felt good knowing the funds stay right here in Lane County.”

“Jaymie does an incredible job each year coming up with creative, fun ways for the Eugene Pro Rodeo’s participants to get in the spirit to raise awareness and funds through Tough Enough to Wear Pink,” Amy Johnston says. “One year, participants filled boots, another year balls were thrown toward a target in the arena for prizes. What doesn’t change from year to year is the Defoe family’s commitment to honoring their mother and wife by helping other local women who are battling breast cancer. We are honored to be a part of something that is so personal and meaningful.”

The power of pink
During the Eugene Pro Rodeo’s Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night, cowboys, staff and spectators proudly wear pink clothing in a show of solidarity for breast cancer awareness. Attendance at the event has grown over the years, creating an impressive display of pink throughout the arena at the Oregon Horse Center.

“While the loss of my mom is still very raw and emotional for me, even after 13 years, I think this is a wonderful way to honor her legacy,” Jaymie says. “For all the families who have been touched by cancer, I see our event as a show of community support. I appreciate each and every person who comes out and wears pink.”

Jaymie and her family are focused on making the rodeo a family-friendly event, and bringing back the nostalgia that Jaymie remembers so well.

“I have very fond memories of the rodeo as a kid growing up. The rodeo is special and it’s a tradition. I want families to experience that and make memories of their own here.”

Join the Fun

What: Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night at the Eugene Pro Rodeo

When: Tues., July 3, 2018
Gates open at 5:30 p.m., Grand Entry begins at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Oregon Horse Center
90751 Prairie Road, Eugene

Wear your pink attire or purchase some at the event. Participate in the Pink Frisbee Toss for your chance to win prizes, including a $1,000 gift card from Jerry’s Home Improvement Center. All proceeds benefit Oregon Cancer Foundation.


Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night at the Eugene Pro Rodeo is held in honor of Jaymie Woods’ mom, Karla Defoe.


Cowboys to spectators wear pink to spread breast cancer awareness.


There are pink activities and games to raise money for OCF.

Cancer survivor creates event to support patients


When breast cancer survivor Kelly Barton thought about how she wanted to celebrate the end of chemotherapy, her friends suggested she plan a 5K. After all, Kelly is no stranger to organized running and walking events. This marathon runner has been participating in races since training for her first event seven years ago.

“I wanted something good to come out of my diagnosis. I wanted the good to outshine the bad,” Kelly says. “I also wanted this to be a fundraiser and for the money to stay in the community and help other cancer patients. That’s why I chose Oregon Cancer Foundation as the recipient of the proceeds.”

Putting the wheels in motion
The My Breast Friends 5K event came together quickly with help from friends and family and incredible support from Kelly’s employer, Timber Products Company, and other sponsors including Armadillo Roofing, Jones & Roth, Oregon Imaging Centers, Umpqua Dairy Products, Habitat Contracting, LLC, North Fork Roofing Materials, Inc, and Northwest Surgical Specialists.

Kelly’s goal was to have 200 people participate and to raise $10,000 for OCF. She was amazed when registration for the event, which was held earlier this month, topped nearly 300 people and generated almost $13,000!

“The event exceeded all of my expectations,” Kelly says. “I can’t adequately put into words what it meant to me to have so many people there to support the cause. So many of us have been affected by cancer in some way; it was nice to come together to achieve this common goal.”

The value of community support
The Oregon Cancer Foundation is incredibly grateful when people and organizations in the community offer to host a fundraiser to support OCF’s mission. The money raised allows the foundation to help more patients through OCF’s Financial Assistance Program and educational events, including the foundation’s Survivorship Series.

“We are humbled by Kelly’s selflessness, courage and tenacity. She’s a force of nature, and we are honored to have the opportunity to work with her and to help her celebrate,” says OCF Executive Director Amy Johnston. “We are also incredibly grateful to all of the local businesses that supported My Breast Friends 5K, especially Kelly’s employer, Timber Products Company. It’s wonderful to witness a business support their employee during such a difficult time, through both their words and actions.”

“The My Breast Friends 5K wasn’t just a success because we crushed our attendance and fundraising goals. It was a success because the event was so full of positive, supportive energy,” Kelly says. “It was fun to see so many first time 5K participants win medals for being in the top 3 in their division.”

Kelly has decided to make the My Breast Friends 5K an annual event. To see additional photos from this year’s race and to get information on upcoming events, check out the event’s Facebook page.


Kelly Barton, along with her husband and daughter, prepares to lead off the race.


Even though it was raining, no one seemed to mind!


Kelly’s biggest cheerleader – her mom!

Swallows of Hope Award recipients announced


The recipients of the 2018 Swallows of Hope Awards were recently announced at the Oregon Cancer Foundation’s annual Neighbors Helping Neighbors Breakfast at Valley River Inn, in Eugene.

The awards honor one community member and one health care provider who consistently go above and beyond to spread hope to local cancer patients. While all of this year’s finalists, nominated by the public, are truly worthy of recognition, the following individuals received awards for their dedicated efforts in supporting cancer survivors in our community.

Community category recipient: Shirley Lyons
When florist Shirley Lyons of Eugene and her daughter Toviana Jackson started Bras for Cause in 2012 to support Oregon Cancer Foundation’s Financial Assistance Program, they never imagined what it would become.

“We’re in the emotion business, and we help people celebrate their most exciting moments in life and some of the most difficult and challenging,” Shirley says.

After seeing how breast cancer impacted the lives of family members and employees at Shirley’s shop, Dandelions Flowers & Gifts, the mother-daughter duo decided they wanted to create an event that would not only raise awareness about breast cancer, but also put the fun in “fundraiser.”

“One of the things that Bras for Cause does is it engages people on all different levels. People decorate a bra, bring it into the store and then we display them throughout the month of October,” Shirley says. “During that time, the public gets to vote on their favorites, either in the store or online at One dollar equals one vote.”

With Shirley’s involvement and enthusiasm, Bras for Cause has grown over the last seven years, from raising a couple thousand dollars in 2012, to bringing in over $82,000 in 2017 with the addition of Girls Night Out, a celebration event that serves as the campaign’s finale.

For Shirley, the community involvement and stories that are shared by participants during Bras for Cause are just as important as the money raised.

“We have people who come in to see the different entries and when we engage them, they begin to tell their story about their own journey with cancer, or the journey of a friend or family member,” she says. “We’ve had folks come into the shop with their masks on, straight from their chemotherapy appointment, to look at the creation that they made as part of their healing process. Those are really special moments.”

Plans are underway for the 2018 Bras for Cause campaign this fall. Stay tuned for details.

Click here to watch a video featuring this year’s award finalists in the community category.

Health care category recipient: Dr. Jonathan Gonenne
When gastroenterologist Dr. Jonathan Gonenne was told that he’d been nominated for OCF’s Swallows of Hope Award, his first question was, “Who did that?”

Humbled to receive the award, but not one to seek recognition, Dr. Gonenne credits his stellar team at Eugene Gastroenterology Consultants, as well as our highly skilled medical community, for the level of patient care he’s able to deliver. As a member of Oregon Cancer Alliance’s gastrointestinal team, Dr. Gonenne works alongside other multidisciplinary specialists in the community to collaborate on challenging cases and identify the best course of treatment for each patient.

“Over time, this team-approach has evolved into a tumor board that has been meeting twice a month for 10 years on behalf of patients. It’s really made a difference in patient care, and I’ve been honored to be involved in that,” says Dr. Gonenne.

“Among cancers, we’ve really made strides in colon cancer in the last 10-15 years. We are catching things earlier. And when you catch things earlier, you can do more and survival improves.”

Dr. Gonenne’s colleagues say his dedication to his patients is unwavering, from his participation in community events to raise awareness about colon cancer screening, to his constant efforts to make sure patients are seen in a timely manner, no matter what.

“Anything we can do to get patients in, I think, is really important. Because we’ve all be on the other side of things where we’ve been a patient ourselves, or a family member or a friend has been a patient. Taking that into consideration and keeping that in the forefront of my mind, is an important part of being a physician.”

Click here to watch a video featuring Dr. Gonenne and this year’s award finalists in the health care category.