By Jessica Heslam
Tuesday, December 11, 2012 –
When she was 16 years old, Carol Brownman Sneider lost her mother to breast cancer in 1973.
Sneider thought “science would have all the answers” by the time she grew up, but that wasn’t the case.
Then, her daughter was born.
“I just wanted to see her grow up,” Sneider said yesterday. “She inspired me because I wanted to see her life.”
Sneider, 56, has poured her heart and soul into Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer, an annual fundraiser that has raised more than $650,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute over the past 13 years, according to the Hub cancer center.
“What I do is a labor of love,” said Sneider, who works tirelessly out of her Needham home year-round, has a few volunteers and has never drawn a salary. “The cause is No. 1 for me.”
Every May, during the week leading up to Mother’s Day, hundreds of Bay State restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets and other eateries offer up a dessert and donate those sales to Sneider’s cause.
Virtually every penny has gone to Dana-Farber until this year when Sneider became her own nonprofit called Bakes for Breast Cancer Inc. Now, 80 percent of donations go to Dana-Farber and 20 percent to Bakes for Breast Cancer — still far more than most fundraisers give to the actual charity.
Sneider hopes to expand her reach and is looking for corporate sponsors so she can hire help and raise even more money for breast cancer research and patients.
“It’s grown much bigger than I ever thought it could,” Sneider said. “We want to expand into new markets. We’ve got big dreams.”
Sneider’s mother was 44 when breast cancer claimed her life. Her father had died of ileitis in his 40s. Sneider and her younger sister were raised by an aunt and uncle.
“Back in the ’70s and the late ’60s, nobody talked about cancer,” recalled Sneider, who didn’t learn her mother had breast cancer until a month before her death.
Dr. Erica Mayer, a breast cancer medical oncologist at Dana-Farber, said Sneider has made an “amazing contribution” toward promoting breast cancer awareness and supporting breast cancer research.
“She does this whole program, essentially, single-handedly,” Mayer said. “We at Dana-Farber, both the researchers and the treatment team, are incredibly grateful for Carol’s incredible efforts over the years.”
Sneider has been fundraising for Dana-Farber since 1990, when she and her sister started a fund at the cancer institute named after their mother, Eva Brownman. The sisters raised money through black-tie events.
Eventually, Sneider decided she wanted “to do something that anybody could participate in.” Both she and her mother loved to bake so she founded Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer.
“It’s nice that any person, no matter what their socio-economic demographics are, can make a difference,” Sneider said, “just by buying a dessert.”