My Hope Chest was founded by Alisa Savoretti in the fall of 2003. A breast cancer survivor and Las Vegas Showgirl, she was 38 and without insurance at the time of her diagnosis. Following a mastectomy and only 5 months after finishing her chemotherapy,Alisa returned to the Las Vegas stage and her career as a professional dancer – this time however, minus one breast.
Billing herself as the “Lop-sided Showgirl”, Alisa shared her personal story and plans for an organization as a result of it, gaining media attention through a news story on the local CBS affiliate. Alisa had to wait nearly 3 years to acquire her own reconstruction. She realized then that there is a huge gap in treatment that existed for “uninsured” women suffering from a mastectomy.
“I realized how my own self-esteem, confidence and self worth as a woman returned when I could look in the mirror and see my whole “physical” being once again. It was my healing, a restoration in body mind and spirit.”
With the help of members of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners), My Hope Chest was formed and became a 501c3 in December of 2003, and is the only “national” breast reconstruction organization working to help “uninsured” and under insured women heal completely.
Thoughts from the Founder
“I have never questioned why I got cancer, I honestly believe I was destined to start My Hope Chest. Seeing “pink ribbons” everywhere, the “awareness” of the disease and the magnitude of the dollars that breast cancer raised, I believed the support and funding was there to address this “final step in breast cancer treatment”. I thought the program would have been much easier, a no-brainer – alas, I was mistaken.”
The BIG problem….LACK of AWARENESS.
Our experience shows that most advocates and donors to “breast cancer organizations” believe every aspect of the disease is covered by the larger few breast cancer charities. We wish it were true. This misconception and lack of awareness for the need to help survivors with breast reconstruction has kept My Hope Chest under the radar. Thankfully, nearly 10 years since My Hope Chest began, the problem is getting press.
In 2010, we learned that an estimated “22,000 women a year” lose their breasts and are uninsured or under insured. Multiply this number of human beings times… let’s just count back 10 years…could it be true ……….that 220,000+ women are still living breast-less in the most heavily funded cause in America? Each passing year, we uncover the epidemic proportion of the problem. The reality, there are probably millions of survivors/women and men who gave up hope long ago to ever afford this surgery.
The problem expands as in this economic climate we are seeking a growing number of “insured” applicants applying for assistance with their “Co-pays” of $2500-$5000. The good news today… there is hope for survivors who had none. My Hope Chest has changed lives and is diligent continue our mission to heal more survivors heal every year.
Personal views on the big 3 areas of breast cancer funding
Research…. We all want a cure.
The BEST DAY for any charity no matter their mission, is when their services are no longer needed; we all live for that day in breast cancer. Thankfully there are dozens of organizations, both large and small, addressing what has been identified as the 3 main issues here, outside of early detection…which includes mammograms and we fully support. Thankfully, great strides are being forged towards the cure of the disease and more are living each year.
Little known fact: Do you know who the largest funder of breast cancer research for the cure is?
Answer: Our Government, the DOD…. the Department of Defense, our very own Army researchers are allocated $150 Million a year to search for the cure of breast cancer and has done so since 1993… This figure was nearly double, in 2010, of that of the largest breast cancer organizations in America.
Education of the Disease
Thankfully, breast centers and breast health navigators in every city provide the immediate information to a newly diagnosed woman in addition to the plethora of information on the Internet such as American Cancer Society, Living Beyond Breast Cancer and others- There are resources to help patients and survivors. I believe breast cancer organizations are all “helping the same woman at different steps of her journey.” Therefore we must focus efforts and funding into areas that are not well covered rather than pay to produce another “What You Should Know About Breast Cancer” pamphlet.
Are We Aware?
In 2014, I feel breast cancer “awareness” campaigns “In America” are redundant and moot. “Awareness” is not a charity or a formal organization, but funds are continually raised in the name….we are all very aware breast cancer exists. My Hope Chest wants to see more funding(donors and grant dollars) directed to the unmet needs for “survivors” still needing education of their options and breast reconstruction surgery. We also recommend supporting bill pay programs for those going through treatment and unable to work and pay their bills. Less talking…. more ACTION this year.
Dozens of organizations, both big and small cover, education and awareness of the disease. This was why My Hope Chest’s crusade began and continues to focus on the back end of treatment… where “Survivors” fall unknowingly through the cracks. We speak to hundreds of survivors struggling every day to live beyond the disease. Like I once did, these cancer Warriors(working or single mothers) tell us they feel “less than whole” and can’t get past their cancer experience as they are reminded every day when they look in the mirror of their agonizing choice to sacrifice one or both breasts in exchange for their life. Although our wait list grows nationwide, the awareness that thousands of women still live years after the disease missing one or both breasts is still largely a whisper. We need your help…in 2014 this has to change.
How to Help?
This year be visionary….Expand your giving to aid in the total healing of a survivor’s journey. You will feel even better knowing that your dollars are providing a real solution to an unmet problem – and helping a real someone right NOW.
Become an “Angel Sponsor”
With greater awareness of the charity, comes a greater need and responsibility. My Hope Chest invites local business and corporations to discuss Win-Win “Cause Related Marketing” programs to help us continue our important work for survivors. I personally challenge business leaders to join MHC, be a visionary philanthropist… step out of the pack and make a major impact with your philanthropic dollars. A financial contribution to grassroots organizations like My Hope Chest have so much more of a profound impact on our mission, I promise you.
My vision continues to see My Hope Chest change lives in America and to eliminate our wait list once and for all. My dream is to live to see My Hope Chest grow to assist women all over the globe. I believe that with your support, My Hope Chest, like grassroots organizations before it, will endure in our society and leave an important legacy on this earth until there is a cure for the disease.
Finally friends, I thank you sincerely for taking the time to learn about our mission. We encourage you to spread the word within your community and online networks, we simply can’t do it alone. On that note….I am eternally thankful for my mother Betty, a survivor too, who has supported My Hope Chest and my work since it’s inception and for my family too who continue to be by my side. I am confident the universe will provide the essential funding we seek to continue our important work, just as I know I am destined to see this project through.
I hope you’ve been empowered to take ACTION and support My Hope Chest this October.
Together we will “Bring Hope to Life!”
For more ideas on how you can help, visit SUPPORT MHC.
Please remember … do your self-exams, know your breasts and get your annual mammogram. (I personally recommend mammograms for women under 40 if there is a family history of breast cancer). Many towns offer free or reduced fee programs in October -invest the small price that can save your life. Contact your health department, American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen chapter in your town for a referral.
God bless and in good health,
- NACE- National Association of Catering and Event Planners
- National Consortium of Breast Centers
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- Ewomen Network
- Women In Networking
- National Association of Professional Woman
- 2012-13 USO Tampa Bay ~ Advisory Board
- 2014- The Hope Museum~ Advisory Board
- 2016 Community Award ~ Local Shops1, St. Petersburg
- 2015 Spirit of Humanity Award– DeBartolo Family Foundation, Awarded $25,000
- 2013 “9 Names to Know in Breast Cancer” ~ Reader’s Digest Magazine- Natl.
- 2012 Community Hero ~ Tampa Bay Lightning, Awarded $25,000
- 2012 Top 50 Entrepreneur ~ Business Leader Magazine’s Award
- 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016 Woman of the Year Finalist ~ Tampa Bay Business Journal
- 2009 2011 Everyday Hero ~ Bay News 9
- 2008 Nevada Finalist ~ Americorp’s Governor’s Five Points of Light Award