Owners of Painting with a Twist locations from St. Petersburg, Tampa and Sarasota and friends came together to walk in the 2013 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in downtown St. Petersburg. The event began at Vinoy Park, on a beautiful October 5th morning, as the sun was rising. The franchises each contributed T-shirts and gift certificates to customers who wanted to walk with the team, The "PWAT Twisters". It was a huge event, with smiles on faces everywhere, and a feeling of hope in the air. With uplifting music to set the pace, friends came together to hug, to celebrate, to remember, and to support the cause that is so important to us all.
Sheri Penxa, one of the owners of Sarasota Painting with a Twist, has a very personal reason for supporting the fight against breast cancer. "My best friend is a breast cancer survivor. She's been out of treatment about ten years now," she said. Penxa organized the team and was the Captain. “I've walked in the Komen event for eight or nine years now. Every time we walk, it’s amazing to see how many people come out, and the enthusiasm people have for the cause,” said Penxa.
Her friend Hope Kinney is co-owner of the Painting with a Twist location in Sarasota. "This is our first year creating a team," said Kinney. "We have had a group of 6 or 7 people who meet up with us and various people walk different years."
Asked what inspired her to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race, Penxa said, "My daughter was already doing it, and she got me involved. I do anything my daughter wants me to do!"
"That's how I got started with Painting with a Twist in the first place," Penxa went on to say. "My daughter invited me to take a class with her at the St. Petersburg location of PWAT. Hope and I took that class and a second class together there. On our way home, we started talking about how much fun it would be to have our own Painting with a Twist in Sarasota. Since Sarasota didn't have a franchise, almost a year later, here we are, with our own location that is doing very well. Since Hope and I have a background in working with non-profits, we love the way Painting with a Twist has a corporate mission statement to give back to local communities continually with Painting with a Purpose events. Since the Susan G. Komen event is near to our hearts, we are happy to be involved in this cause."
The Sarasota location of Painting with a Twist has raised money with their Painting with a Purpose events to donate to The Neurochallenge Foundation, which helps with Parkinson's disease, the Loveland Center, which helps with developmental disabilities, The Literacy Council, and The Vera Bradley Foundation, which helps with breast cancer research, among other charities and non-profits.
Leslie Gay, who owns the St. Petersburg and Tampa locations of Painting with a Twist with her husband and partner, Marvin Gay, said, “We are so excited to give back to our community through this event. This is a special year for us since our daughter-in-law Tia (Angela) was just diagnosed with breast cancer. She is going through treatment right now. My sister, Judy, is also a breast cancer survivor.”
“We are happy we’ve been in business for four years now," Leslie Gay said, "and with our Painting with a Purpose events we’ve been able to contribute to non-profits and charities from dog rescue organizations, like the Suncoast Basset Rescue and the Florida Poodle Rescue, to the Ronald McDonald House, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, The Wounded Warrior Project, March of Dimes, the American Heart Walk, CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse ) and many others.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. While most people are aware of breast cancer, it's important to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same. This can be done by regularly doing self exams, and by taking steps to help lower your risk of developing breast cancer. The American Cancer Society writes, "While you can't change some risk factors — genetics and getting older, for example — there are things you can do that may lower your breast cancer risk." The ACS has provided a list of 5 ways to help protect your breast health at this link. It has been found that diet, exercise, smoking, and other lifestyle choices we make all impact our overall health and our risk for cancer, so it's best to do all that we can by way of prevention.
A very artistic exhibit at the event was the Faces of Courage display of the Bodies of Courage photos and limited edition prints. These colorful photos showcase breast cancer survivors who have been body painted and photographed by the multi-talented local artist, Lisa Scholder. "Each one of these women has unabashedly shared their soul and body with me," writes Scholder on the web site. "In return I have reflected their own unique strength / soul with the abstractly interpretive paint on their bodies. This endeavor has transformed / transcended my inner being and the meaning of my art." Jim Webb, owner of The Webb Works Video Productions, interviewed the models, shot and edited a Faces of Courage/Bodies of Courage video, which is inspiring to watch. It's just amazing to see how important art can be in healing and in sharing the stories of individual survivors and the story of the cancer journey. The Faces of Courage Foundation is a non profit that provides day outings and overnight camps for families touched by cancer and blood disorders, at no cost for the participants and their families. They currently serve over 3,800 families throughout the state of Florida and bordering states.
It was an emotional experience to see the Survivors March at the event. Volunteers handed out pink roses to the women, as they began their trek, from the most recently diagnosed, to those who had lived a lifetime past treatment and are still going strong. It gave a sense of hope for those still battling the disease, gratitude for those who are still with us, and sorrow for those we have lost due to cancer.
On the Susan G. Komen Florida Suncoast web site, you can find more information on what organizations are funded by the Komen Florida Suncoast affiliate, get race results, and learn more about research gains in the hopes of ending breast cancer forever. See lots of cool photos from the event on the Susan G. Komen Facebook page. Check out the photos from the PWAT team in the slide show with this article, and on the Painting with a Twist Facebook page!
For info on breast cancer and breast health, please call 1-877-506-6927, the Susan G. Komen Florida Suncoast line.
Note: Author Sarah Dees is a professional artist and a cancer survivor. She also writes another feature on Examiner.com, Tampa Bay Cancer Advocacy Examiner. Read more from Sarah about cancer issues in that feature.