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Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
|Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.|
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Erika Rech and Mike Ruane, Founders of Breast Friends Forever, Named New Jersey Heroes
For Immediate Release Contact: Michael Drewniak
Trenton, NJ- As 15 year-old high-school students, Erika Rech and Mike Ruane of Hazlet watched the devastating impact breast cancer had on their family. The two cousins, now 19, were so motivated by their personal experiences that they formed Breast Friends Forever to help other families cope with the burdens of the disease. Today, First Lady Mary Pat Christie named Erika and Mike New Jersey Heroes for their efforts to make a difference in the lives of patients and families struggling with the effects of breast cancer.
“I am so inspired by Erika and Mike’s compassion and commitment to improve the lives of others in their community,” said Mrs. Christie. “Their work is giving hope, courage and peace of mind to women and their families who are facing a multitude of hardships in their battle with breast cancer. In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am proud to name Erika Rech and Mike Ruane New Jersey Heroes.”
The two teens first began their fundraising efforts by selling candy bars and t-shirts in church. Today, Breast Friends Forever has raised approximately $250,000 to support breast cancer patients and families in need. The organization provides financial support for items ranging from wigs and prosthetics to medications and transportation. This year, the pair plans to open five chapters of the charity in other states.
“The more we learned about breast cancer, and the treatment, costs and pain it causes, the more compelled we felt to help out families struggling with this disease,” said Erika Rech, a sophomore at Villanova University.
“Erika and I vowed to form an organization to help families navigate through a cancer diagnosis by providing resources and emotional and financial support,” added Mike Ruane, a Rutgers sophomore.
Through donations and fundraisers, Breast Friends Forever has furnished wide ranging assistance to breast cancer victims in the community, including:
making gas, electric and car payments for a young woman with two daughters who could not meet expenses because she had to stop working while going through chemotherapy and a double mastectomy;
purchasing enough train tickets so that a woman who had breast surgery could get to her full course of radiation treatments because she could not get there on her own;
buying a wig for a 28 year old woman because her insurance would not cover it and she could not pay for it on her own;
helping to pay the rent, phone and electric bills for a woman whose breast cancer recurred and metastasized to her bones. The woman’s husband is on permanent disability with a heart condition and with her chemotherapy treatment and medication costs, the couple were falling behind on bills.
In addition, Breast Friends Forever has introduced Check Yourself Out, a campaign aimed at educating young women about the importance of breast self examination.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, about 7,360 women in New Jersey will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Nationally, about 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in 2011.
To learn more about Breast Friends Forever, visitwww.breastfriendsforever.org/site/
For more information on breast cancer, visitwww.state.nj.us/health/ccp/breast_cancer.shtml
New Jersey Heroes is an initiative of First Lady Mary Pat Christie that showcases the positive ways people and organizations are impacting New Jersey in their own unique ways. To nominate a hero, go tohttp://newjerseyheroes.org and follow the application instructions and submit the person you believe is a true New Jersey Hero.
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Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360