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Breast Cancer Research Foundation

In my world, the more people you have helped the bigger the celebrity you are. So last week when I had the privilege to talk to Myra Biblowit, the President and CEO of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) I was everything you would be when meeting your hero…nervous, anxious, excited and truly thrilled to share her remarkable journey to change the lives of millions of women around the globe.

Our conversation was timely because just two days before we spoke, a friend of mine had a mastectomy. Myra was beyond lovely, compassionate, soulful and truly inspirational in her commitment to prevent and cure breast cancer (the second most common cancer) by advancing the world’s most promising research. Although October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, this disease doesn’t care what day or month it is. Every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Myra, her team and a remarkable group of people are all changing the game and after our conversation I can see that cancer doesn’t stand a chance with this beautiful lady starring it down.

photo by Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com ©

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what BCRF does?

Myra Biblowit: We want to put an end to breast cancer and our goal is to have no more fear, no more hospital visits, no more side effects, no more needless suffering and no more loved ones lost to breast cancer and the only way to achieve our goal to prevent and cure breast cancer is through research. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment that The Breast Cancer RESearch Foundation began?

Myra Biblowit: BCRF started in 1993 but I met Evelyn Lauder in 1985 and we forged an incredible friendship. Evelyn called me and said that she had an idea to create a foundation that focused on breast cancer research after seeing the pace at which breast cancer research was moving. Evelyn had looked around the country and there was not one organization that was doing research with a laser sharp focus.  Evelyn said, “I can do this and if I can do it and I don’t it, it would be a sin. Will you help me?” Evelyn had a soul and a heart that were enormous. She was working on the pink ribbon symbol and knew she could make this an ubiquitous symbol of the cause and get this issue out of the closet.

The story doesn’t end with creating awareness , it extends to harnessing dollars towards research to change the future. I told Evelyn, I would help her find an Executive Director and help her get BCRF off the ground. I was working at the Museum of Natural History at the time. In 1993, BCRF began at Evelyn Lauder’s kitchen table with our dear friend Dr. Larry Norton of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  Seven years later when I was working at NYU, I had had a few job opportunities arise and I reached out to Evelyn and Leonard Lauder for their advice as friends and Evelyn said, “Well this is a slam dunk, this is bashert (yiddish for meant to be)….last night the Executive Director told us she wanted to stop working.”

By Monday, I was the President of BCRF. Evelyn gave up the Presidency and became Chairman and Founder and I went to work for my darling friend. I started April 1st, 2001 and I told her I would take the organization international, I would raise a lot more money and I would create a strategic thoughtful grant program to ensure that the dollars we are raising are wisely meeting the organizations targets.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Myra Biblowit: We lost Evelyn in 2011, and I do what I do in her memory and in her honor. BCRF is her legacy and I work hard to make sure that we are the gold standard. Our work stands as a tribute to her vision. Today we  are the largest global funder of breast cancer research. We are the most highly rated breast cancer organization in the country. Evelyn had such vision and clairvoyance, breast cancer was in the closet when we started and thanks to pioneers like Evelyn breast cancer and women across the globe, it is out there now.

The dollars that we are investing at BCRF are not only answering questions about breast cancer today but a multiplicity of other cancers as well. Evelyn would not have envisioned the relevance that BCRF would have.

Myra Biblowit and Dr. Larry Norton, photo credit Suzanne DeChillo

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Myra Biblowit: Since BCRF was founded there has been a 40% decline in breast cancer deaths worldwide. Proof is in the pudding and truly we can tell you that BCRF has had a role in every major break thru breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship as well as an advancing knowledge about other metastatic diseases. 

When Evelyn and I were working together we were mainly talking about diagnosis and treatment. We knew then and know even more now that research is THE reason.  Today that continuum begins with prevention and extends with survivorship. The connector is that research is THE reason, it is the glue.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had at BCRF?

Myra Biblowit: I think it is important for people to know that breast cancer is rapidly transitioning to a manageable chronic disease. People need to not be fearful from the stories of the past from their mothers and grandmothers. Treatments are much more targeted. When a woman is diagnosed today they can try to find what type of tumor she has and then find the right treatment for that tumor type, that is huge.

We now know that breast cancer is not one disease but made up of four or five different diseases in terms of tumor types and each one has more in common with other forms of cancer than with each other. Today’s treatment have far greater likelihood of success and they are far less toxic.

One study that BCRF was involved with was the TAILORx, a major multi-year and multi country study to determine what women needed chemo who had early stage estrogen positive breast cancer. We knew women who had a high score needed chemo and women who had a low score did not need it. We didn’t know for the 70,000-100,000 women in the middle range if they needed chemo or not. Today we now know that those women do NOT need chemotherapy.  This study proved the power of research. These are the advances that change the future for our mothers, our daughters and our friends.

Charity Matters: What is your vision for the Breast CAncer REsearch Foundation going forward?

Myra Biblowit: In the current year we raised $80 million dollars and we awarded grants of $63 million dollars to over 300 researchers across 14 countries. We could have funded more had we had more funds. We are one of the few engines who give resources to cutting edge researchers. We are the engine that tells researchers to take that chance. We are a rare funder in our flex-ability taking research down the path of greatest opportunity because the stakes are so high.

We devoted a fund to metastatic disease, when Evelyn died by creating a Founder’s Fund. We want to use that fund to find more about metastatic disease, we want to invest in young researchers and the more dollars we can give to our researchers the more breakthroughs we can make.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience? How has this journey changed you?

Myra Biblowit: You know Evelyn gave me an opportunity to do something professionally that touches peoples lives profoundly. How lucky am I? Evelyn was grateful for everything that came her way. She was a child of the Holocaust and her family fled when she was an infant. Everything that she and Leonard achieved was a partnership. She was magnetic and wonderful and when we lost her, Leonard stepped in. I am filled with gratitude everyday and for the opportunity to learn from the extraordinary Lauder family. What fed their soul was to make the world a better place and it was infectious. 

 

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LuxAnthropy

A few weeks ago I was attending an event at a girlfriend’s home and was running late. I was dashing up to the front door alongside a very fashionable woman and we began to chat in our haste to make the party on time. Our conversation was fantastic and so inspiring.  It turns out that this amazing woman, Jennifer Hillman, has taken philanthropy and fashion and brought them together in the most inspiring way. She is the co-founder of a genius business called LuxAnthrophy. A brilliant online platform for men and women to sell their high end goods (bags, clothing, jewelry, etc.) and give a percentage to charity and LuxAnthropy also contributes to your cause.

Naturally, we needed to continue the conversation we started and I had to share it all with you. So get ready to be inspired to clean out your closet and or to go shopping for a cause!

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what your organization does?

Jennifer Hillman: We created LuxAnthropy based on the belief that conscious consumerism, along with small but thoughtful acts of generosity, breeds global change. 

LuxAnthropy is a high fashion resale website dedicated to giving back to its charitable partners.  We carefully select, authenticate and curate each luxury and designer item, generously provided by top celebrities, stylists, Hollywood insiders, fashion houses and influencers. 

Our sellers can make money and give money.  We wanted to allow giving amounts to be a personal choice, because all giving is good.  Therefore, our sellers determine the percentage of their commission to donate to one of our partner charities and LuxAnthropy contributes five percent of its proceeds to the same charity.  And, LuxAnthropy’s customers get great deals on top tier fashion, while also knowing that their purchase is helping others in need. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your philanthropic organization?

Jennifer Hillman: Having a mother who is a two-time breast cancer survivor, combined with working alongside iconic philanthropist Evelyn Lauder to elevate The Estee Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, propelled me in ways that are still surprising me today.  When we first came up with LuxAnthropy’s “make money, give money” business model, Myra Biblowit, President of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation was the first person I called.   And when Myra said “Wait, why isn’t this being done already?” I knew we were onto something that could really be powerful.  BCRF’s willingness to take a chance on LuxAnthropy is testament to the essence of who and what they stand for as a charity.  We’re incredibly proud to say that we have more than 15 highly-rated charity partners today, and are honored that BCRF was LuxAnthropy’s first.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Jennifer Hillman: The generosity of people fuels me.  There are so many who have helped us get to where we are today and we are incredibly grateful to each and every one of them.   Our fuel is also the responses we continuously receive from our charity partners, sellers and customers.  When we contact our sellers to let them know something of theirs has sold, the typical response we hear is “That’s amazing!  I’m going to send you more items from my closet. And tell my friends about LuxAnthropy.” A new customer called to say that she’d been looking for one of the designer dresses that she purchased on LuxAnthropy for a year, and was so excited to find it, and even more excited to know that everything being sold on the website supports wonderful charities.

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Jennifer Hillman: LuxAnthropy is all about making a difference and helping others make a difference, in whatever way that works for each person’s lifestyle.  A few weeks back at an fundraising event hosted by a friend, I was singled out by several people in attendance as the person they needed to meet.  They all had things in their closet that they were no longer using and wanted to have LuxAnthropy sell them to benefit a particular charity.  That felt great.  A triple win.  Win for that person, win for that charity and a personal win for us at LuxAnthropy.  It’s great to see positive word of mouth is spreading about LuxAnthropy.

Making a difference from an environmental perspective is already part of everything we do.  This is because when new and almost-new designer items move from the back of one person’s closet to the front of someone else’s (vs. going into landfills), we’re helping to preserve our environment for future generations.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had?

Jennifer Hillman:  We just officially turned 1 year old and are proud to have more than 15 charity partners already on board, with more to come.  The collective feedback has been universally positive.  We strive to make it super easy for sellers, charities and buyers.  We continue to have month on month growth — both in sales and in social engagement.  We’re just at the beginning of our journey and know that when we look back a year from now, we’ll be proud of our story.  We love giving back and hope we are an example on just how easy and fashionable giving can be.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience? How has this journey changed you?

Jennifer Hillman: I’ve learned that no matter what your job is, it’s important to remember the benefits of work, life balance.  To recharge by yourself or by spending time with family and friends.  Great ideas often come from when I’m not at the office but on a hike, in a pilates class or getting my nails done by my daughter.  I’m learning that it’s ok to take some time for myself as it only benefits everyone around me, especially the team at LuxAnthropy. 

More than that, I’ve learned a lot about human nature and that, for the most part, helping others is intrinsic in each of us.  Everyone feels good helping others.  It’s just that simple.  With our platform, we’re incredibly excited that we’ve created a way where giving back is made easy.    We all work really hard because we want to make a difference.  

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YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.