Philadelphia School Students Raise Awareness and More Than $12,450 to Help More of their Neighbors Survive Breast Cancer

8th Annual Dollar Defense program raises funds for local breast cancer services and research; empowers children to be a key conduit of sharing lifesaving messages with their loved ones.

For the eighth consecutive year, Susan G. Komen Philadelphia has partnered with the School District of Philadelphia for Dollar Defense, a unique month-long breast cancer awareness, education, and fundraising project that embraces students, faculty and parents of the District. This year’s program raised $12,457.66(as of 11/11/18) to fuel the Komen Philadelphia mission, which works to fund research as well as serve the local community by providing free mammograms and treatment services for women in need, educating at-risk communities, and supporting survivors, families battling breast cancer and the metastatic breast cancer community.

“The world for today’s youth is not the same it was a generation ago,” said Elaine I. Grobman, Chief Executive Officer, Komen Philadelphia. “Their academic programs are more accelerated and intense. They are more involved in sports and social activities. They are more occupied than ever with the digital age and social media. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the breast cancer mortality rate in this country. It remains where it was over 30 years ago—40,400 women and men will die of breast cancer in the U.S. this year alone. This is why the efforts of these Philadelphia school students are so important and valuable. Moreover, the fact that these students have greater responsibilities than their predecessor—but still have prioritized the breast cancer mission—should make all of us extremely confident that breast cancer will one day be defeated. These children have passion. They have commitment. They are able to see that their future could be one without the threat of breast cancer and they are giving it their all… right now… to do their part in making it happen.”

Grobman went on to say that the fact that Dollar Defense is now in its 8th year attests to the importance of giving younger generations a role to play in fighting breast cancer, as well as focusing them on the hope that exists.

“Sadly, most of these students will have been touched by breast cancer long before they finish elementary school. A parent, grandparent, teacher, friend’s mom, aunt—many of them will tell you about someone they know who faced this disease. When you get right down to it, each of these students and faculty members are making sure more women—the people love, interact and share their lives with every day—survive breast cancer,” said Elaine I. Grobman, Chief Executive Officer, Komen Philadelphia. “They are doing this by having the conversation about breast cancer and the importance of early detection. They are doing it by taking our messages home to their families. And, they are doing it by raising the funds that empower us to provide free services for women in need and fund research leading to more effective treatments.”

Through Dollar Defense—which is held every October in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month—Komen Philadelphia and the District help children, as well as parents, focus on the progress and positive change happening in the breast cancer movement, such as there being more than 3.3 million survivors in this country, advances in treatment and growth in survival rates. Also, key to the outreach is helping students and parents feel hopefulinstead of helpless. Messages shared with the students demonstrate how, through their Dollar Defense activities and support of Komen Philadelphia they are helping to save lives now and to create a future in which no life is threatened by breast cancer.

The educational and sharing component of Dollar Defense is the foundation of the program’s development. As part of Dollar Defense, Komen Philadelphia and the School District send letters home to parents as well as distribute them to faculty/staff. These letters explain the activities of the project, as well as provide information breast cancer basics, breast health practices, and how women who are uninsured or underinsure can access resources in the community for free mammograms, diagnostics and treatment. Students are encouraged to take a few simple, but powerful, steps, such as discussing concerns with their parents and reminding loved ones to get their mammograms. Adults receive letters with more detailed information about breast cancer risks, signs and prevention, as well as a list of free services for women in need in Komen Philadelphia’s fifteen-county service area.

In terms of fundraising, Dollar Defense also has a special message for students: every dollar makes an impact. The fundraising mechanism utilizes Komen Philadelphia’s Pretty In Pig program, sponsored by Dietz & Watson. Pretty In Pig has a special appeal to school-aged children because it uses standard and over-sized piggy banks as the means for making donations and fundraising as a class. Throughout the program month, as well as at the wrap-up celebration, messages are shared that tie the money raised to impactand that demonstrate the huge achievement that comes from everyone working together. This year, students had the opportunity to contribute $1 or more to the Pretty In Pigprogram from October 1-31, which benefits Komen Philadelphia, and participate in a special activity at their school in celebration of National Mammography Day on October 19.

While not a required part of the program, every year teachers experience students wanting to discuss breast cancer on their own level in the class room—which Komen Philadelphia sees as another important dynamic driving progress in the fight to end breast cancer.

“As a breast cancer survivor, mother and grandmother, experiencing the student’s excitement and Dollar Defense activities is empowering to me personally and provides such tremendous hope for our entire community,” said Sally Rotenberg, a retired teacher from the Philadelphia School District and Komen Philadelphia volunteer who was instrumental in starting the Dollar Defense program. “These children will be the next generation to lead the breast cancer movement, they have already proven their commitment to this fight in tremendous ways. Seeing them take action, and take ownership, in this cause leaves no doubt in my mind that we’ll continue to save more lives every day, and one day live in a world in which breast cancer is no longer a threat to any life.”

A resounding success in terms of fundraising and increased awareness, Dollar Defense was launched in 2011 and is now an annual program, which both groups feel will continue for many years to come. Each fall, Komen Philadelphia and the District embrace a family of energetic, creative and team-oriented teachers, students and parents who are primed to make the program even more successful than the year before. The 2018 Dollar Defense brings theprogram’s seven-year fundraising total to approximately $170,817.


Top Fundraising Schools

Classroom and school fundraising from October 1-31 was totaled to determine the 2018 Dollar Defense winners. The top ten fundraising schools won a Dietz & Watson Grillebration on November 20. ShopRite also donated to the celebration. These top-achieving schools were (listed highest to lowest fundraising total):

  • Fox Chase School—also was the top fundraising school of all participating schools
  • Honorable Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary School
  • Hancock Elementary School
  • Louis H. Farrell Elementary School
  • Ann Frank Elementary School
  • C.A. Baldi Middle School
  • Furness High School
  • L. FitzPatrick Elementary
  • Stephen Decatur Elementary School
  • Carver Engineering and Science High School
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