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Channelling grief into fundraising

Battling cancer one batch of buns at a time. It’s a strategy that has worked for the “Breast Friends” of Foam Lake, Saskatchewan –10 women who have channelled their grief into the pages of three national bestselling cookbooks.

These self-declared menopausal women have brought a whole new definition to mid-life crisis and empty-nest syndrome. Once their children began flying the coup, their careers were winding down and the family dogs had up and died, these amazing small-town women decided to fill the gap with a miraculous little project that has grown into a $700,000 charity industry.

It all started off rather innocently. A rally effort in 2005 to help deal with the pain of losing sisters, friends and a mom to breast cancer resulted in a fundraising meal and many requests for the delicious recipes.

So, the Breast Friends put together a cookbook. The first book, For the Breasts of Friends, is a hometown cookbook filled with comfort foods and comfort phrases that made the 10 Foam Lake women and their readers feel better.

Through word of mouth, people started buying the book by the caseload, quickly making it a national bestseller. The proceeds were all donated to cancer causes, from purchasing new beds for a rural cancer lodge, to buying chemotherapy infusion pumps which enabled women to receive treatment closer to home.

A second book, For the Breast and Rest of Friends, arose when one of the Breast Friends lost her husband to melanoma. And now, Foam Lake’s Breast Friends have a third cookbook, Breast Wishes from Breast Friends.

All of the recipes are tried-and-true, home-cooked favourites, with the photography being provided by the town’s local photographer and sales being done strictly by the group members themselves (Linda Helgason, Charlene Rokochy, Cecile Halyk, Nat Dunlop, Jacquie Klebeck, Anne Reynolds, Jeannie Johnson, Patti Hack, Val Helgason and Darlene Cooper).

“I think people have supported the book so overwhelmingly because breast cancer impacts so many people’s lives and supporting an effort like ours gives them a feeling of being able to do something to combat breast cancer,” said Patti Hack. “The third book is about survivors, rather than a tribute to those who have passed, so it’s been so much fun to promote because it’s about life.”

The third book made its way onto the national bestsellers list as it came off the presses. For more information visit www.breastfriends.ca.

Christalee Froese writes from Montmartre, Saskatchewan

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Christalee Froese writes from Montmartre, Sask.

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