Correction: 2nd Annual Bras Across the River is Saturday
Last year's Bras Across the Crooked River display, organized by a Kent State grad, "turned out to be a pretty neat event," according to one business owner. Evidently, it also started a trend
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect an initial error in which the event was reported as taking place Sunday, Sept. 11. The event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10.
When Jim Collver retired from the insurance profession, he "just wanted to make a difference, and make something that will be here after I'm gone."
Collver, a Kent State University graduate, has accomplished that through the Celtic Club of Ohio.
The club — Collver is the only official member — started the annual St. Pet's Day to collect and distribute pet food to animal shelters in Northeast Ohio. In Kent, St. Patrick School collects food for the event each March.
Then in 2007, when Collver was grieving the death of his girlfriend who had succumbed to lung cancer, he met a group of breast cancer survivors. The group introduced him to Breast Oasis, a reconstructive surgery center in Akron, where he learned more about the challenges faced by breast cancer patients. Again, Collver felt the desire to help others.
That's how Bras Across the Crooked River began. Last September, brightly colored bras were hung along the Main Street Bridge spanning the Cuyahoga River. This year, the bras and the event are stretching much further.
"I look at it as the bra is somebody's voice," Collver said. But he knows it's the visual that gives the voice its impact. "We were stopping traffic," when the bras were on display over the Main Street bridge last year in downtown Kent, he said.
This year, the event will have a chance to stop traffic in Kent as well as in as in three other cities, including Akron, Barberton and North Canton. Because the event expanded so much, it outgrew its original name. In 2011, the event is known as Celtic Club Fights Breast Cancer.
The 2011 event has a new honorary chairperson, too.
Lee Runkle, a breast cancer survivor, is the chair. She is also Collver's fiance.
Runkle will help hang the bras with other volunteers in Kent on Saturday, Sept. 10. Last year, volunteers spent about four hours hanging up all of the bras, Collver said, and additional volunteers are "absolutely" welcome. Those interested in volunteering can contact Collver through the group's Web page.
McKay Bricker Framing was one of the original donation sites for the 2010 event.
"We thought it was a little weird last year when they approached us," said owner Cass Mayfield. "And it turned out to be a pretty neat event."
Around the corner, Pufferbelly restaurant owner Kevin Long said the eatery participated last year, too.
"It's nice to be a part of it. I do the (American Cancer Society) Relay for Life every year. Everyone knows someone who has dealt with it," Long said, whether "it" is breast cancer or another form of the disease.
"My aunt went through it," Long said. That was nearly 20 years ago, and she's been cancer-free for nearly 20 years, "thank God."
"Official" collection boxes are to be set up at The Arctic Squirrel, Kent Area Chamber of Commerce, White Hall Terrace, the mayor's office, Kent State Student Center, Kent State Student Recreation and Wellness Center, McKay Bricker Framing, Mike's Place, Pufferbelly Restaurant, Ray's Place, Water Street Tavern, and Zephyr Pub.
Some donations arrived ahead of the boxes, though. When that happened at McKay Bricker, Mayfield created a box to house the bras, at least temporarily.
So far this year, there are more than 80 donation sites, Collver said, and new sites are still being added. In Canton, "people are dropping off bags of bras," Collver said. "It's a good problem to have."