COLUMBIA — Cheryl Perkins pressed clay into a mold, using her fingers to smooth out the back. When she popped it out, a small woman's face was looking back at her. It was the face of a warrior battling breast cancer.
Perkins has teamed up for the fourth consecutive year with Ralph Dumas, a fellow employee at Joe Machens Ford, to compete in Ellis Fischel Cancer Center's Artful Bra Contest that begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts.
What: Fourth annual Artful Bra Contest and Silent Auction.
When: A reception and silent auction goes from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: The Missouri Theatre, 203 S. Ninth St.
Cost: Tickets for $25 can be purchased through Monday and $30 at the door.
For more information, call Charlene Johnson at 882-6100.
BREAST CANCER BY THE NUMBERS
— 290,170 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 in the U.S., according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
— 39,510 women are expected to die in 2012 from breast cancer, according to the Komen Foundation. The only other cancer that accounts for more death in women is lung cancer.
— Between 1998 and 2009, 59,435 women and 379 men in Missouri were diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the Missouri Information for Community Assessment database.
— Between 1998 and 2009, 1,211 women and nine men in Boone County were diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the Community Assessment database.
The fourth annual event will feature about 70 decorated bras that will be sold through a silent auction.
The $19,500 raised since the event began has provided assistance to women who are unable to receive a mammography due to financial reasons along with care for patients with breast cancer.
Dumas and Perkins collaborate on the bras they submit every October.
Dumas acts as the think tank by brainstorming; Perkins turns the idea into a tangible piece of art using materials she collects throughout the year.
In past years, Dumas and Perkins have entered a "pony" bra with working headlights, a bra "built Ford tough" with hubcaps and a piñata filled with candies. Each year their bras have placed in one of the five categories: "A" cup for artful, "B" cup for bodacious, "C" cup for cancer-themed, "D" cup for delightful and "F" cup for funny.
Despite the popularity of their initial creation, Dumas was uncomfortable with his first experience in the contest.
"I'm proud of what it is, but with a room of 40 mechanics I don't walk through the office with it," Dumas said.
This year Dumas was inspired by Ford's breast-cancer theme "Warriors in Pink" to create a bra based on the Amazon warriors from ancient Greece.
According to Greek mythology, Amazons would either cut or burn off their left breast to improve their bow hunting and spearing, Dumas said.
Perkins has begun building the bra using copper wire, clay and other materials.
"All women are fighting a battle, and these are battles for women that have been diagnosed with cancer," she said. "The creativity of the whole event is the same way with the cancer. It's there every day. It's touched everyone's lives."
Creativity isn't the only thing that drives Perkins and Dumas to compete each year. Both have been affected by breast cancer through the diagnosis of friends and family.
"I've seen how it can really terrify a family," Dumas said. "It is really stressful."
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