Harvard Square Businesses Raise Funds For Breast Cancer Studies


Shops Raise Funds For Cancer Studies
Published On 8/4/2006 12:53:31 AM

Crimson Staff Writer

If a plastic pink flamingo shows up on your doorstep anytime soon, listen to what it has to say—or at least check out its MySpace profile.

On Friday, July 14, six of the long-legged creatures were plopped down onto the newly sown grass of Eliot Triangle in Harvard Square, only to be carried off almost immediately by passersby.

The kidnappings are for a cause: the birds—donated by the Dickson Bros. hardware store—are spreading the word about breast cancer awareness through pink flyers attached to each one. Passersby were instructed to migrate the birds with them to their next destination, spreading cancer awareness with it.

But even Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association (HSBA) and mastermind behind the pink flamingo scheme, was astonished when The Saratogian reported that Fester, one of the flamingos, had made its way to Yaddo, N.Y. on July 17.

As for the rest of the feathered family? “They could be anywhere,” she said.

But avian voyaging is just one way local businesses have been supporting the breast cancer cause in the past month. As part of the Harvard Square Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, Square businesses are showcasing pink displays, touting pink desserts, and creating special pink drinks like Rialto’s “Raspberry Lemontini” or Noir’s “Femme Fatale,” which the bar described as a “passionately pink concoction.”

Jillson and Robin Lapidus, HSBA director of marketing, events and promotion, have encouraged the over fifty participating businesses to creatively promote the cause.

The Charles Hotel hosted a “Pink Panther” movie night on July 28th, Boloco is handing out pink ribbons to customers and donating $1 from each smoothie sale to the Hoffman Breast Center, and The Carriage House Salon is donating one hundred percent of the profits from pink nail polishes and lotions, five dollars per manicure, and ten dollars per pedicure to the Hoffman Center.

But the Square-wide effort started off with an individual cause. After her father was diagnosed with breast cancer, Pamela Giller—a former bartender at Grendel’s Den and current Assistant Director of Student Care at Lesley University—approached Grendel’s owner, Kari Kuelzer, seeking help to raise money for a family breast cancer walk.

Kuelzer—whose mother died from breast cancer, according to Giller—immediately agreed to sponsor Giller’s team, “Breast Man Walking.” The team—which consists of Giller, her parents, and her brother—has raised over $30,000 so far.

When Kuelzer brought the idea of a breast cancer awareness campaign to a meeting of the Harvard Square restaurant committee on May 16, Jillson jumped on the cause. Within the hour she returned to her office, pitched the idea to Lapidus, and the two soon after began working with Kuelzer on a letter that they mailed to the entire HSBA’s membership on June 12.

So far over fifty businesses have become involved with the effort, raising money for local organizations such as the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund. Although the HSBA has participated in community campaigns like “Locks of Love” and promoted breast cancer awareness before, Jillson said that this is the first time the businesses have coordinated a month-long campaign of this scale. Giller is overwhelmed by the support, and says the community’s response has been “way, way beyond my expectations. Beyond everybody’s, really.”

“It’s been a huge reinforcement that this is the right community to be living in right now,” she added.

So far, businesses say that the campaign has been a financial success. As of earlier this week, Henrietta’s had sold 505 Strawberry Teas and Noir had sold 174 “Femme Fatales.” Boloco had raised $547 through the sale of smoothies, and The Carriage House salon had sold about thirty bottles of pink nail polish.

Customers are pleased with the campaign, businesses said. Boloco manager Maria Carvalho said that some customers had been buying smoothies more frequently because of the campaign, and Henrietta’s has also noticed an increase in the popularity of their Strawberry Tea drink.

October is the nation’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Lapidus said she believes that many of this July’s efforts can be carried through until then. Organizing breast cancer awareness efforts amid major events like the Head of the Charles Regatta and Oktoberfest can be difficult, but Lapidus hopes this summer’s campaign will facilitate fall efforts.

Flamingos at Oktoberfest? We’ll hear what they have to say.

—Staff writer Vilsa E. Curto can be reached at vcurto@fas.harvard.edu.