Rising charity brings new life to breast cancer survivors in the Houston area
After Cindi Harwood Rose watched her sister Holly suffer from and survive stage four breast cancer, she realized how devastatingly painful treatments and procedures can be for a patient — both inside and out. Most of all, she felt compelled to help patients that had undergone disfiguring procedures regain their self confidence, normalcy and hope for life through plastic and reconstructive surgery.
With the cost of these surgeries ranging from $7,000 to more than $75,000, Rose recognized that for the large number of uninsured patients, the procedures are ultimately unattainable. In an effort to shed light on these patients’ misfortune, she collaborated with her husband, Dr. Franklin Rose, a Houston plastic surgeon, to generate a plan for funding free reconstructive procedures for uninsured breast cancer survivors. Thus, the Rose Ribbon Foundation (RRF) was created. In November of 2005, the foundation officially reached 501(c)(3) status and has since continued to cultivate into an exceptional philanthropy in this city.
Since its inception in 2004, the RRF, in collaboration with Dr. Rose and Tony Rotondo, CEO of the First Street Surgical Center, has helped 11 breast cancer survivors (including men, women and children) throughout the Houston area receive free reconstructive surgery (from scar repair to double mastectomy reconstruction). Patients in need of reconstructive surgery are often referred to the RRF by The Rose (which provides free mammograms to the uninsured) or the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Potential candidates are thoroughly reviewed by a board that evaluates a patient’s urgency, financial need and whether or not he or she is healthy enough to undergo surgery. Once selected, the foundation often helps the patient pay for medicine, child care and loss of wages incurred throughout surgery and recovery time, in addition to providing psychological support and emotional encouragement. With Dr. Rose currently funding and performing the surgeries himself, First Street Surgical Center in Bellaire generously waves surgery costs once a month for the foundation, although some patients and all children must be taken to local hospitals for procedures.
While the RRF continues to grow, more than 10 of the city’s leading plastic surgeons, including Dr. Michael Ciaravino, Dr. Fred Aguiliar and Dr. Lisa Santos, have come on board to help support the organization’s cause. Dr. Jack Jenson, an orthopedic surgeon (who has treated many patients with breast cancer that has spread to their bones), has also committed to heading an orthopedic division of the organization called the Rose Limbs, which will assist breast cancer survivors suffering from bone complications. In addition, the foundation has enlisted a grant writer who is currently working toward obtaining state and national funding for surgeries and expenses.
Backing the cause
So far, the RRF’s leading ladies, Cindi Rose and Denise Lepow, have hosted numerous events at sites such as Neiman Marcus, David Yurman and Tootsies in an effort to raise money and awareness for the organization and its purpose. To date, the money raised by the organization has covered the expensive costs of nurses, medicines, anesthesiologists, legal work, hospital fees and education.
Upcoming fundraisers in Austin, New York and Washington, D.C., are also in the works. Additionally, Rose, herself, performs silhouette cuttings in boutiques, such as Village Kids, Get With It and Tanglewood Pharmacy, as well as at private parties, throughout the year and donates 100 percent of the profits to the foundation. On Oct. 27, Rose will be honored by the Susan B. Komen Foundation at the Hilton of the Americas for her philanthropic work with breast cancer. For the future, Rose plans to bring the foundation to other cities in the state, and eventually, throughout the nation and worldwide.
In recent months, the organization launched a branch, entitled Rose Petals, for young professionals wanting to get involved with the RRF. The Rose Petals division is intended to be an exciting networking and philanthropic outlet for young professionals, age 35 and younger, wanting to make a difference in the lives of breast cancer survivors. Rose’s sister, Holly Harwood Skolkin, also manages a division of the RRF, called the Thorns, which offers support and group therapy for those that have suffered or are suffering from cancer.
Make a difference
Interested in helping the RRF reach out to breast cancer survivors in the Houston area? The foundation offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for people of all ages — from helping organize a fundraiser event to visiting recovering patients. Donations may also be sent to the organization to help cover the costs of medicine, loss of wages, hospital bills, surgery needs, medical professionals or child care.
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