By Latasha Ford
TIFTON — The annual Ya Ya Sisterhood Event will take place Jan. 31 with the theme being “Ya Ya Road Trip.” It’s scheduled for 7 to 11 p.m. at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center, located off Interstate 75, Exit 64.
This will be the Tiftarea Foundation for Women’s Health’s 10th year presenting the event, says Teresa Lupo, who’s been with the organization for six years and is currently the secretary. When asked how does it feel to have made it to the 10-year mark during an interview at The Tifton Gazette office, she said, “It’s wonderful. Think of all the people who may be alive today.”
She said the Ya Ya Sisterhood Event started because of a local woman who had breast cancer and saw the need of those people who weren’t able to get the help that they needed.
“She was fortunate, but she wanted to reach out and help others,” Lupo said.
According to some information provided by the organization, in 2003, Dianne Harrell, owner of Additions, became aware of a contest that one of her clothing vendors was sponsoring. The contest would award money for breast cancer awareness and education to the group that had the most imaginative event to bring women together focusing on breast cancer awareness. The only requirement was that the event needed to include a fashion show.
Harrell enlisted the help of her good friend and fellow breast cancer survivor, the late Donna Miller, Ph.D. Together they formed the Tiftarea Foundation for Women’s Health and hosted the first Ya Ya Sisterhood Event in 2004. The event was a huge success and featured women coming together to decorate tables, have dinner and be entertained with a fashion show of cancer survivor models.
Harrell and Miller won the contest and split the money between the mammography departments at Tift Regional Medical Center and then-Affinity Health Group to help women facing breast cancer. As a result of the success of the event, the Ya Ya Sisterhood Event became an annual celebration. Each year, the event focused on a different health problem and money raised went toward that cause.
In 2009, it was decided that in the hard economic times they were facing that their money would be better utilized by setting up a fund rather than hosting events. The organization created a women’s health fund managed by the Tift Regional Medical Center Foundation and designated that money to help women in need, no matter the health problem they’re facing. All funds raised from their annual event are distributed through the TRMC Foundation.
Lupo said the Tiftarea Foundation for Women’s Health works to raise funds to assist women in the Tiftarea with health needs. She gave an example of a woman who had just changed jobs and her insurance hadn’t started at her new job yet and she found a lump in her breast. The woman felt like she needed to have a mammogram and couldn’t wait six months for her insurance to kick in. She was working so she didn’t qualify for any government assistance.
“That’s what we step in and do. We help the people who ‘fall through the cracks.’ They need help but because they’re either working or kind of between insurances, they don’t qualify for what government assistance helps out with,” Lupo explained. She said they have paid for many mammograms, a few biopsies and other needs.
Their mission is: “The improvement of women’s health through community awareness and education, assistance to the medical community in identifying and solving women’s health issues and limited health-related assistance to women in need.”
Lupo said to attend January’s event, tickets can be purchased in advance for the early bird discount — $40 off the $300 fee for a table of eight. The deadline is Jan. 3. Individual tickets cost $32.50, and after the Jan. 3 deadline, they will be $37.50. Ticket purchases include food, tea and water and entertainment (local band South Train). Beer and wine will be available for purchase. Also, a photo booth will be set up, and a silent auction will be held to raise funds, which will include donated items from local merchants.
“You can come and get beautiful stuff at a wonderful price,” Lupo said. “Dance, eat and shop — can you ask for a better evening?”
The table categories will be most creative; location, location, location; having the most fun; and best all-around. Winners at a table will each receive a gift donated by local businesses.
Lupo said they have a great turnout each year, and they’re hoping to sell at least 30 tables for the 2014 event. So far, 17 tables have already been sold.
To reserve a table, contact treasurer Patricia Brooks at 388-6231 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.