To understand the story of Bakes for Breast Cancer and its immeasurable impact on breast cancer research and those who conduct it, you must first get to know its humble founder, Carol Sneider. Like many of us, Carol has, unfortunately, witnessed the devastating nature of this disease. Losing her mother to breast cancer spurred Carol into action, rather than complacency. Untold grief and heartbreak serving as fuel, Carol and her sister, Marjie Brownman Shapiro, were determined to fight back against breast cancer in any way they could.
In 1990, Carol and Marjie started the Eva Brownman Breast Cancer Fund at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, named in memory of their mother. The sisters were undaunted by having no fundraising experience between them, and took on the challenge with heads of steam. The EBBCF held black tie events and fashion shows in order to raise money for breast cancer research. Despite their lack of fundraising prowess, the sisters saw returns. The money raised would provide essential bridge grants to breast cancer researchers; the financial foundation for these important studies. One of the researchers that the EBBCF provided seed money to was Dr. Judy Garber, who was, at the time, on the forefront of experimental breast cancer treatment research. Her work would eventually lead to the development of the breakthrough drug treatment, Tamoxifen. This contribution serves, to this day, as tangible evidence that Carol’s work has made a difference in the fight against breast cancer.
With her sister moving to the midwest in 1994, Carol was left with a decision as to how to proceed with the fundraising work. While black tie events worked well to raise necessary funds for research, Carol thought about the larger picture.
“I wanted to build something where anyone could make a difference, regardless of their socioeconomic status,” Carol said.
With this idea, as well as the fund’s namesake, in mind, Carol cooked up a sweet new business model: desserts.
Carol approached the New England Pastry Guild with her idea in 1999, and soon entered in a partnership that would yield 42 restaurants in Bakes for Breast Cancer’s first year of operation. In its next year, the number would swell to 72 restaurants. As B4BC grew, so too did Carol’s support system. Dozens of pastry chefs, restaurateurs and volunteers would soon become lifelong friends.
With research grants being difficult to come by, younger researchers and investigators struggle to find the resources that would support their work. Carol saw the need, and worked tirelessly to fill it. To Carol, it made what they do even more important.
“To me, it was just a natural fit. They needed our help, and we worked to provide it.”
Carol has also learned valuable lessons about the impact of her organization beyond contributing to the fight against breast cancer: the significance of the people she works with.
“It’s the people that help make the events come to life each and every year. They’ve become like my family,” Carol said.
Working closely with countless volunteers and regular supporters has illuminated to Carol the importance of her network of people. Without them, and the helpings of joy they have brought to her over the years, Bakes for Breast Cancer simply wouldn’t be as successful.
“It is the people you meet that help you evolve, that helps form the base of the organization,” Carol said.
Without the work of Carol and her budding organization, the incredible strides of dozens of researchers may not have ever seen the light of day. Unfortunately, breast cancer research grants are still difficult to come by. Thankfully, Carol and her team at Bakes for Breast Cancer never stopped fighting, and will continue to shape the landscape of research and breakthroughs for years to come.
This blog is part one in a series that will tell the story of Bakes for Breast Cancer, from its inception to the present. Check back each Wednesday for new installments!