U.S. Mayor Article

West Haven (CT) Mayor Takes National Breast Cancer Campaign to New Heights


October 7, 2002


A powwow two years ago in the Connecticut shoreline city of West Haven spawned one of the most creative and successful fund-raising efforts for breast cancer awareness.

On Sept. 28, 2000, municipal executives and police brass of the 10.6'square-mile melting pot, which boasts the Constitution State's largest arsenal of public beaches stretching 3.5 miles, conferred at City Hall to discuss plans for a fund raiser in support of October's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

It wasn-t long, however, before the afternoon brainstorming session grew afire from organizing a single fund raiser to a yearlong series of events each month to benefit breast cancer research.

Breast cancer afflicts more than 180,000 American women each year, including more than 2,000 in Connecticut. The disease, however, doesn-t discriminate; it affects men as well.

The campaign to educate the women and men of the diverse community of 52,000 was initiated by Mayor H. Richard Borer Jr. as part of a collaborative effort between city and police officials to increase awareness of the deadly disease, which had taken the life of a long'standing city schoolteacher just three years earlier.

Borer said the untimely death of third-grade Savin Rock Community School teacher Susan A. Ruickoldt in 1997 was the catalyst behind the birth of the city's breast cancer crusade.

In conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Ruickoldt's friends and colleagues organized the city's first-ever "Hat Day" the following October and gave out pink ribbons for donations to the American Cancer Society in her memory.

The special day, which encouraged city employees to wear their favorite chapeaus to work while raising thousands for cancer research, followed again in 1999, before the city's breast cancer summit in September 2000.

Year-Round Promotion and Fund Raisers

At a City Hall kickoff ceremony the week after the early-fall conference, Borer announced the city's ambitious plans for taking the national breast cancer campaign to new heights by raising awareness beyond October to the rest of the calendar year.

"The promotion of breast cancer awareness to the women and men of our community is invaluable education that can help save lives," said Mayor Borer, who's in the midst of his sixth two-year term as West Haven's chief executive.

The morning kickoff took place outside the mayor's office, where Borer issued an official city proclamation declaring the national awareness month. The ceremony included remarks by the 45-year-old mayor, who ran down the list of fund raisers to the public that varied in concept from various tournaments of sport to food sales to an icy plunge into Long Island Sound.

As part of the event, organizers displayed large wreaths with pink flowers inside City Hall and offered lapel pins with pink ribbons for a small donation. Mayor Borer called on all members of the community to don pink to work or school that Tuesday to support those with the disease, which afflicts one in eight American women.

The yearlong slate of events included a duckpin bowling tournament, a bake sale, a remembrance month, a dead-of-winter plunge into the Sound, a pizza taste-off, a walkathon, a bocce, horseshoes, and shuffleboard tournament, and a candlelight vigil.

To boost the Plunge for the Cure event, Mayor Borer produced and starred in a comical video challenging then'syndicated talk'show host Rosie O-Donnell to join West Haven's intrepid volunteers in the mid-January benefit. O-Donnell, a staunch advocate of breast cancer awareness, had been known for taking communities up on such challenges for charity.

Proceeds from the fund raisers, which totaled in the tens of thousands, went to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for research and education.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women 20 and older perform a breast self-examination every month, women 20 to 40 seek a clinical exam every three years, and women 40 and older seek a clinical exam every year.

"Now more than ever, women should consult their physicians and seek mammograms to monitor and help prevent future illnesses," Borer said.

Impact

After two years of raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research, West Haven's campaign shows no signs of slowing down.

"We-re just getting warmed up," Mayor Borer said. "Our effort has no end. It will continue until a cure has been found."

Since two years ago, one facet of the city's campaign has changed, however. The city has favored using the funds it raises locally to go to its own residents, instead of a national charity.

Said Mayor Borer, "It's only fitting that we donate the money we raise to someone who calls West Haven home."

Mayor Borer continues to dedicate a significant part of his efforts to the cause, saying, "The people of Connecticut can expect to see West Haven at the forefront of breast cancer awareness and prevention for years to come."

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