In 2005, At the age of 25, Shannon Iezzi Watson was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer. Two years later, after enduring chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapy, Watson learned that the disease had metastasized. Motivated by a mission to help others, she and the Rack Pack, a support group for young women with breast cancer, organized the first Bras for a Cause fashion show in 2009.
The event invites breast cancer survivors to walk the runway wearing artfully crafted bras, which are available for purchase in both silent and live auctions following the show. Proceeds are donated to Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit, a nonprofit that supports men, women, and children with cancer. Central to the event is inspiring those with the disease to live their lives to the fullest, one of Watson’s mantras. “Bras for a Cause raises funds certainly, but more importantly, it empowers these survivors to take to the runway and celebrate their journey and recovery,” says Laura Varon Brown, CEO and executive director of Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit. “It allows friends and family to cheer them on.”
Throughout her battle with breast cancer, Gilda’s Club offered support and guidance to Watson and her husband, Kevin. Before passing away at the age of 29, it was on Watson’s bucket list to raise $50,000 for the organization. She exceeded her goal before she died, and celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Bras for a Cause has now raised close to $1 million.
This year’s runway show will feature 30 brave breast cancer survivors from metro Detroit who will model braziers adorned with feathers, rhinestones, and tassels at the Royal Oak Music Theatre on Oct. 13. One bra, created by Denise Poole and Watson’s mother, Karen Coulier-Awe, pays tribute to the event’s founder. Taking inspiration from Watson and her Rochester home rock garden, the duo used artificial succulents, moss, and stones to decorate their artistic bra. The title of their masterpiece: Cancer Succ-u-lents.
For more information and to purchase tickets for the show, visit brasforacausemichigan.org.