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Volunteers gear up for breast cancer charity drive


By Julia Wade

19 MF-Pinkribbon2 volunteers-126Pink stalls and buckets will again brighten Mangawhai’s shopping areas this coming weekend as one of New Zealand’s nationwide charity drives with an aim to beat a deadly disease gets underway.

With October officially Breast Cancer Month, Breast Cancer Foundation’s (NZBCF) is putting a call out to all Northlanders to take a stand against the disease with their annual Pink Ribbon Street Appeal (PRSA) on October 11 and 12. Collectors will be at 47 sites across Northland with three locations around Mangawhai – outside the Heads Four Square, Bammas surf shop at the Village, and at the Tavern’s Saturday Market.

Local PRSA coordinator, Annette van Steenwijk, says she needs 40 volunteers to work the stalls.

“Due to all our collection sites being outdoors in Mangawhai over the last few years, which leaves our volunteers exposed to the cold and windy weather, we’ve adjusted the shift time from two hours to one and a half,” she says. “As a coordinator I can't change the weather in Mangawhai but shortening the time spent outside at the collection stalls I can.” 

This year marks Steenwijk’s fifth time organising the street appeal, and like many volunteers and supporters she is inspired by a personal connection to the disease. Her mother, a nurse, was a breast cancer survivor thanks to a mastectomy she insisted on having in her early 50s, allowing her a gift of another 30-plus years. 

“When I was 13, my father died at the young age of 44 from Hodgkin’s disease. He had been ill for five years so my mother’s mind was set on surviving,” she says. “She then passed away at a very blessed age of 86.” 

Approximately 160 Northlanders are diagnosed with breast cancer every year with an average of 25 dying from the disease. Kiwi men are also susceptible, with around 25 diagnosed each year. Breast cancer is so widespread that almost everyone knows someone affected says BCFNZ’s chief executive, Evangelia Henderson.

“Everyone should be aware – look at and feel your breasts so you can report any changes to your doctor,” she says. “Consider annual mammograms from age 40, and have them every two years from age 50. Free screening is available between the ages of 45 and 69 through BreastScreen Aotearoa. Those over 70 should continue to get mammograms every two years, even if you have to pay for them.” 

Due to breast cancer being the most common cancer for Kiwi women, and with research showing that the earlier the disease is detected and treated the better the outcome, BCFNZ urges women to be ‘breast aware’ from as early as 20. Proceeds for the annual appeal provides the not-for-profit organisation vital funds for ground-breaking research into new targeted treatments, awareness and education programmes as well as medical equipment for hospitals and support for Kiwis with the cancer. 

“Hundreds of volunteers in Northland have already signed up to support the campaign, however, we still have spaces to fill,” Henderson says. “During the appeal, please drop a gold coin in the pink buckets. If you don’t have cash, you can text PINK to 4499 to make a $3 donation. Whether you’re donating time or money, your gift will help us work towards our long-term vision of zero deaths from breast cancer.”

Interested in giving time for a vital and worthwhile cause? Contact Annette van Steenwijk 021 189 6905, visit breastcancerfoundation.org.nz or call 0508 105 105 to volunteer. 

Pink Ribbon Street Appeal coordinator Annette van Steenwijk with volunteers Kay Drummond and Joy Wilson having some laughs and collecting essential funds for an important cause. 

Approximately 160 Northlanders are diagnosed with breast cancer every year with an average of 25 dying from the disease.

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