Fighting Back with Corks this Pinktober

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October is worldwide Breast Cancer Awareness month. “Pinktober” is a term coined in reference to all of the pink you see during October for breast cancer awareness, education and fundraising. Breast cancer is the number one cancer to affect women and it seems like we all know someone whose life has been turned upside down by this disease. There’s no cure yet, but through early detection women can help protect themselves against the disease. This year another Lodi organization has decided to step up and fight the good fight, and that’s the women of Lodi Rotary with their first annual Corks for a Cure fundraiser on Saturday, September 29th.

Corks for a Cure takes place at Klinker Brick Winery and is all about celebrating women who have fought the cancer fight, lifting up those who won and honoring those who passed. Sherry Cotta brought the idea to Lodi after meeting a woman in Vermont whose mother had passed away from breast cancer. “When her mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer she and her brother and sister just got drunk. And one of them said, ‘It’s too bad you can’t cure cancer with alcohol.’ You know, like here we are drowning our sorrows with alcohol. Wouldn’t it be nice if that could make a difference?” Sherry goes on to explain this woman decided she wouldn’t just use alcohol to drown her sorrows, she would also use it to cure cancer. She started a fundraiser called Cocktails for Cancer and over the years it has turned into a major fundraising event. Half of the proceeds go towards breast cancer research at their local university and the other half goes to the American Cancer Society. Sherry was inspired by this and brought the idea back to Lodi. Sherry is a part of the Lodi Rotary. There are 65 members in that group, and of that small number, 5 wives of members have had breast cancer. With so many club members being affected by the disease, Sherry suspected this event idea would spark some passion from women in the group. “When I threw that idea out everyone there said we can do this. We’ve been able to pull it all together and I’m just really impressed.”

The women planned an event with the same basic idea: a fun night out fighting cancer. They would have a pink carpet, pink boas, pink decor, music, the whole bit! After all, if women in Vermont get to walk down a fun pink carpet so should the women of Lodi! Of course there would be the usual Lodi twist: wine instead of cocktails. One of the big questions was what to do with the proceeds. Should proceeds go towards one of the groups supporting women in the fight or should the money go towards research? After a group discussion and listening to the breast cancer survivors’ experiences, the women decided they wanted proceeds to go to research towards a cure. “Talking to Deb (a cancer survivor and fellow committee member) she said when she was in treatment it didn’t seem like there was enough interest in research. It was more about how much it’s going to cost,” explained Sherry. “I realized what we could give to the American Cancer Society was not enough to make a difference [for breast cancer]. But if we found a researcher we could support, especially someone who thinks outside the box, perhaps we could do it.” After much research and expert recommendations, the women decided proceeds would support Dr. Chew, an Oncology doctor at UC Davis, and her breast cancer research. “She’s a researcher and she is the one who makes the decisions at UC Davis as to what kind of treatment women get so it seemed like a logical choice,” said Sherry. “It just seemed like a good way to start. If we could give a researcher $20,000 that might keep them going another year, you know? But what we could do somewhere else wouldn’t make that much of a difference. So we decided to single out one person and go for it.”

This year, the first year, the women are expecting to raise $10,000. Money is coming in from tickets, sponsorships, a cork pull, and a quilt raffle. The first year includes a lot of “grunt work” (like finding the perfect pink boa, buying pink carpets, deciding on a logo, etc.) so the second year is where they’re expecting to make even more money. “We have a band, heavy hors d'oeuvres, dessert, we’re doing a photo booth, and Dr. Chew is going to be talking about what’s new in breast cancer research. It’s more of a party. It’s a hard road. We want to celebrate the women who made it through. They need to be praised and it needs to be a party.” The group has also paid a lot of attention to the details in making sure women who have had breast cancer and their supporters feel special. There are aprons for the sponsors and beautiful robes for women who are currently fighting breast cancer. Survivors will receive a pink stemmed wine glass and people who are there in memory of someone who had breast cancer will receive a white etched glass.

It means a lot for all of these women who have seen and experienced the effects of breast cancer to fight for a cure, but it’s also important to them that Corks for a Cure is fun. Like Sherry said, it’s been a hard road so this needs to be a party. “We’re going to have fun,” said Mary Anne, another committee member. “You reach a certain age and somehow that word fun just kind of falls off. It just leaves our vocabulary. And what I find with women over 50 is they just don’t have fun. And when you’ve had to go through chemo and radiation it’s kinda hard. And we’re going to have lots of fun at this party of all ages and I think that’s what’s so important, the fun. Women need to have fun.” Corks for a Cure isn’t a solum tribute to breast cancer, this is an event to celebrate those who are fighting and raise a glass in memory of others. Corks for a Cure is an opportunity to stick it to breast cancer, have fun and continue to love life. These ladies aren’t drowning their sorrows in alcohol, they’re using alcohol to say “We’re not going down without a fight! We can beat this!” It will be a night to fight like a girl- looking beautiful, feeling great and enjoying some food and wine- and celebrate that pink means strong.