Breast Cancer Foundation of Central Florida Provides Resources, Support for Local Patients
by PAMELA PALONGUE
The Breast Cancer Foundation of Central Florida began when just one woman decided to take it upon herself to start something amazing.
Leah Grieger was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was just 33 and the mom of two children when she heard those dreaded words. But she is a woman of faith, and the prayers of her family, her church and the community, got her through some pretty scary days and the ordeal of three surgeries. She was declared cancer-free in 2015. Though recovered, she was far from finished with her work of defeating this disease.
After spending some time with Mary Beth O’Reilly, a family friend in Missouri, she became interested in what O’Reilly was doing with an organization she had founded. The Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks was helping women and their families who had been impacted by their diagnosis. She asked Grieger if she might be interested in starting a foundation for the women of Central Florida under the umbrella of the Missouri organization.
Grieger spoke with her healthcare team and fellow survivors in Florida, who all agreed that just such an organization was desperately needed in the area. When a cancer diagnosis happens, financial worries and childcare responsibilities don’t just stop, or even slow down. Many women were choosing between treatment or paying the light bill.
Grieger felt it was God’s plan for her to begin the Breast Cancer Foundation of Central Florida, which started in 2017 as a grassroots organization of people pitching in and helping, with a staff that was entirely volunteer.
As BCFCF grew, Mandy Middleton was brought on as Outreach Director. Middleton explains that the organization serves from the west to east coast of Central Florida. In 2020, more than $120,000 was distributed to more than 50 families across Central Florida.
“Each mother receives a stipend of $200 per child that can be used toward school supplies, daycare, orthodontics – whatever is needed. And at Christmas, they also get a $100 gift card for each child,” adds Middleton. A total of $5,000 in compensation can be awarded to women throughout the course of their treatment to help ease the worry of financial burdens at a time when women already may be feeling overwhelmed.
Breast cancer survivor Jennifer Hadsock knows firsthand what a blessing the foundation can be.
“The BCFCF stepped in to supplement my income when all my paid leave had been exhausted,” Hadsock says. “They helped to pay bills and keep my kids in extracurricular activities during this extraordinary time. During the holidays, the foundation went above and beyond the call to send gift cards for each of my children so we didn’t have to decide whether to pay a medical bill or have gifts for the holidays.”
Hadsock is now an active volunteer and in 2019 she even started an annual event to benefit BCFCF called “POWer in Pink.” The 5K run took place earlier in September.
Middleton explains that money that is raised here stays here to benefit the women of Central Florida.
In October, the official Breast Cancer Awareness Month, BCFCF is hosting its Pink Ribbon Gala on October 22 at Haus820. This event is made possible by several sponsors, particularly the Watson Clinic Foundation, which also gifted the BCFCF with a generous $100,000 grant in 2019, 2020 and 2021 to help ease financial burdens for area women.
BCFCF has grown from just one woman who wanted to do something good for others in her community facing the challenge of breast cancer. Amazing things can happen when everyone comes together to help. If you’d like to help, either through volunteering or contributing, visit the website at www.bcfcf.org