MORGANTOWN — The WVU Cancer Institute’s annual Pink Party to benefit Bonnie’s Bus, a mobile mammography unit that travels across West Virginia offering free breast cancer screenings, will be held in virtual fashion this year because of COVID-19 concerns, according to organizers.
The online fundraiser is set for Monday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. where partygoers will log-on to the Zoom meeting platform to attend.
“We’ve been working to plan and prepare for this event for weeks now. It’s our first-ever virtual Pink Party and we’re excited to launch it,” said Stephanie McCandless, program manager with the WVU Cancer Institute’s Office of Philanthropy.
Bonnie’s Bus travels West Virginia throughout the year, offering community breast and cervical cancer screenings in a comfortable, convenient environment regardless of age, income or insurance status.
“Bonnie’s Bus makes access to quality screenings super easy,” said McCandless. “It’s outfitted with the exact same technology that’s inside the Betty Puskar Breast Care Center. And a great aspect of the bus is nobody is ever turned away. Grants and donations power the ability to get everyone screened.”
Since it first took to the road in 2009, Bonnie’s Bus has traveled more than 180,000 miles around the state, provided more than 21,500 mammograms, detected more than 110 cases of breast cancer and completed over 1,200 screening days.
“Of course, something like Bonnie’s Bus takes funds. The goal of the Pink Party is to help raise those funds to ensure the bus keeps rolling across the hills and valleys of West Virginia,” said McCandless. “In the year of a pandemic, we need these funds more now than ever.”
The Pink Party has been held for more than a decade now, according to organizers, with attendance averaging about 250 participants. But this event will be historic.
“It’s the university’s first-ever virtual fundraising event. We’ve experienced a virtual graduation here, but this is the first philanthropic event to be conducted entirely online. We’re hoping it will be a trend-setter,” said Cory Chambers, WVU Cancer Institute’s director of annual giving.
Bonnie’s Bus was created in honor of Bonnie Wells Wilson, who succumbed to breast cancer in a remote area of the state with no access to screening mammography. It strives to provide breast cancer screening services to West Virginia women, especially those in rural parts of the state with limited access to screening mammography.
“Even though COVID is here now and probably for the foreseeable future, it remains important to keep Bonnie’s Bus funded and to cover operational expenses that allow it to travel to all 55 counties in the state to help West Virginia women,” Chambers said.
Tickets for the Pink Party fundraiser are $100 each. The party will include special live presentations, videos, prize-winning contests and guest speakers.
Each registrant will receive a Pink Party face mask, the chance to win a new MacBook Air, and will have access to a silent auction in the days leading up to the party. For every mask sent to a registrant, another will be donated to the WVU Cancer Institute for patients to use.
Organizers of this year’s Pink Party said the event was moved online amid the COVID-19 pandemic in order for supporters of the WVU Cancer Institute to continue to back Bonnie’s Bus and its mission in a safe manner.
“We’re making the interactive event as engaging as possible,” said McCandless.
“Everyone will be on camera themselves, if they wish, and there will be lots of things going on. We’ll have several contests, such as being the first to find something in your house and other fun games.”
McCandless said one of the highlights of the Pink Party will be a special message from Dr. Hannah Hazard-Jenkins, WVU Cancer Institute interim director.
Hazard-Jenkins will discuss WVU Cancer Institute being selected to participate in a national clinical trial for a breast cancer vaccine.
“Being part of this trial is very significant and the impact could be huge,” said McCandless. “We’re all very eager to hear her updates on that.”
Sponsorship opportunities are also available at various levels, said organizers.
For more information on the Pink Party to benefit Bonnie’s Bus, contact McCandless at 304-293-7587 or Chambers at 304-293-4597.