Throughout the year, Carolina Breast Friends throws two major fundraisers to fuel their efforts for cancer survivor support and programming: Pink Boots Ball and Dancing With The Stars of Charlotte used to be the two main events on the nonprofit’s calendar.
While Pink Boots Ball and Dancing With The Stars of Charlotte are “dress-up” events, as described by the organization’s executive director, Lynn Erdman, Carolina Breast Friends is adding a thrill-seeking event to this year’s fundraising efforts. Over The Edge is an event in which individuals raise money to rappel off the Hyatt House in Uptown.
NASCAR drivers and executives took part in a similar Over the Edge event at Embassy Suites in Uptown last year, but Carolina Breast Friends are taking things to the next level — or six levels up, for that matter. While the Embassy Suites was just 10 floors, this year’s event at Hyatt House will have participants rappelling 16 floors.
On May 31, breast cancer survivors, oncologists, family and friends were all invited to raise at least $1,000 to rappel down the side of the building, an exercise meant to be symbolic of strength and progress for survivors who have been through the struggles of dealing with diagnosis, treatment and regression.
“This is really out of the box for us, this is so different from our other events. But the survivors that we’ve had respond have just been so excited,” Erdman stated. “[The survivors] said, ‘I went through all the treatment, I lost my hair, I threw up and did everything else for more than a year and I did that, and now I want to do this.’”
Over The Edge is an international company that partners with city nonprofits to organize rappel events for fundraising. Erdman first heard of the company when she was at a separate event in Raleigh. She brought back the idea to the Carolina Breast Friends team and they teamed up with Over The Edge to throw the event in Charlotte.
During the Saturday event, rappellers will descend the outside of the Hyatt House while cheer squads encourage, flash mobs dance and local mascots root for them.
With proceeds from the event that will benefit Carolina Breast Friends, they’re hoping to expand their reach outside of Charlotte to the outlying neighborhoods.
“One of the things that we’re looking at and this would help us do that, is offering some of our programs in some of the outlying areas,” Erdman said. “So having some of the same things in Huntersville and Ballantyne and Fort Mill, that’s really on our radar right now and any of this will help us.”
Since launching in 2003, Carolina Breast Friends has operated as a support and education nonprofit for people diagnosed with breast cancer. Located on Morehead Street close to Uptown, The Pink House, a headquarters for the nonprofit, is nestled in an area rife with hospitals and clinics — close enough for patients to access in the city.
However, as the organization has ramped up its efforts, organizers are increasing infrastructure and income, branching to the greater Charlotte area. And they’re doing it through events like Over The Edge, Pink Boots Ball, Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte.
Pam Young, the communications and marketing director for Carolina Breast Friends, sees tremendous potential in the growth of the nonprofit.
“We have also seen a big increase in the number of people that we’re serving through greater awareness. Of course with the increase in serving people you have to have an increase of your infrastructure to be able to handle everything,” Young explained. “That’s exciting because we could probably double our size and the number of people we serve and still there would be so many more women and men in the area that could use the services.”
The sheer visibility of an event like Over The Edge will help them increase their infrastructure, they hope, but the heart of the event still lies in supporting those diagnosed with breast cancer.
“We felt like it was a really nice mirror or way to highlight how fearless so many of the women and men with breast cancer are,” Young stated. “Their world as they knew it just went over the edge. They just went over the edge.”
Charmaine Tyson is not only the operations manager for Carolina Breast Friends, but also a two-time breast cancer survivor and is participating in the Over The Edge event. She first came to the Pink House after her first diagnosis in 2013. Tyson had a recurrence in 2016 and said that Carolina Breast Friends was by her side.
“I’m living proof of being a survivor and a thriver and much more,” Tyson said.
Tyson explained that she was “clueless” when she first came to the Pink House, but found the programs helpful during her diagnosis, treatments and regressions. With her descent during Over The Edge, she hopes to send a message of hope and achievement to those that are watching and may be struggling with the same diagnosis that she had.
“We are heroes and everything is possible,” Tyson declared. “You can do anything that you want to do and we’ve been through something that we don’t want to have been through, but life is great after the storm.”