RWNZ gained recent recognition at the Fundraising Excellence Awards at Parliament for the runaway success of its Let’s Get Plastered for Breast Cancer campaign over the last year. Billy got the whole thing going two years ago when she convinced over 100 Golden Bay women to take casts of their breasts and exhibit them in The White Room gallery at LolloKiki in Commercial Street.
The following year, RWNZ asked Billy to take over the innovative campaign and took it to the nation via some 20 branches. Over 1,600 women around the country ended up plastering themselves for the breast cancer cause, raising $16,000 in the process. When the big cheque was handed over at the conference to Breast Cancer Foundation chief executive Van Henderson, Billy was asked to get up and speak. She used the opportunity to tell the delegates about her 49-year-old best friend Jennie Heasman of Tukurua, whose death from breast cancer in 2004 ultimately inspired her to do something about promoting breast health awareness. Then Billy sang to the conference her “Jennie song”, which she wrote after her friend had died and sang at her funeral. “I saw a few tears out there at the conference as I was singing it. Breast cancer affects too many women.”
However, it was soon Billy’s turn to be overwhelmed as she received a well-deserved avalanche of accolades and applause from NZ Breast Cancer Foundation (NZBCF) executives and Rural Women alike for her innovative leadership. All the money raised from the national Let’s Get Plastered campaign will now go towards the research being undertaken by associate professor Susan Dovey of the University of Otago, who will compare breast cancer outcomes for rural women to those living in urban areas. “We are delighted that the funds our members raised for breast cancer will go back into rural health research,” said RWNZ national president Liz Evans. She also used the occasion to announce that Rural Women will continue to promote breast health awareness and raise funds for NZBCF by selling breast cast kits this year for “Mammary Memories”, which encourages women about to have a mastectomy to cast their breasts prior to surgery.
Billy says the whole thing for her has been about getting the message out there.
“Let’s Get Plastered for Breast Cancer caught the attention of women around New Zealand and encouraged them to become practically involved. Now it looks set to go to Australia too, with the South Pacific chapter of Associated Country Women of the World asking if they can promote the concept there. The more the merrier I say!”