The hundreds of bras you see lining the guardrail of the Kansas River bridge aren't there purely for decoration, though they’re bedazzled with countless colors and styles of paint, buttons and ribbons.
This temporary addition to the bridge has a dual purpose: to make a statement for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to promote Health Care Access, a clinic that provides health services to residents in Douglas County who are below the poverty line.
Shelly Wakeman, director of the clinic, has made sure that everyone gets the message.
“Everybody always notices the bras, of course, but I think in years past people didn’t know who was responsible,” Wakeman said. “It was like all these bras show up and you’re wondering where they come from.”
This year, to help people understand, Health Care Access created two large pink banners explaining the mission of Bras Across the Kaw.
“The whole purpose is to catch peoples’ attention and, if they’re a woman, hopefully get them to schedule their mammogram,” Wakeman said. “Or, if they’re a man who loves a woman, to get them to encourage her to schedule one.”
According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. It is estimated that more than 200,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. during 2013.
“We really want people to get mammograms for early detection,” Wakeman said.
Donations and money raised from sponsorship of Bras Across the Kaw will go toward women’s services at Health Care Access. The string of bras will be on display through Oct. 20.
Hanging the bras
On Sunday afternoon, Wakeman and a dozen volunteers worked to hang the approximately 300 donated bras along the east side of the bridge. They looped the bras around a bungee cord and used zip ties to connect them to the rail.
“OK, get ready to pull,” yelled Haley Harrington, the new Wellness Coordinator for Health Care Access.
A moment later, a few people on each side stretched the cord, beginning the process of decorating the bridge.
“In years past, I knew it was for breast cancer awareness,” Harrington said. “But I had no idea it was a Health Care Access thing. So that was one of our goals this year.”