Keep a Breast: Shaney Jo Darden

CBD College had the pleasure of talking to Shaney Jo Darden:  activist, life enthusiast, and founder of the Keep a Breast Organization.  Keep a Breast (KAB) educates and advocates for young people in ways never seen before.  How, you ask?  KAB spreads breast cancer awareness across a multitude of platforms.  They’ll be on campus as guest speakers tomorrow. July 26th, at 11 AM and 6PM for our AM and PM classes!  Read on for an inspiring interview with Shaney Jo.

1. How did you become involved with Keep a Breast? How has it grown or changed over time?

I founded Keep A Breast 17 years ago after a friend, who was her 20’s, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since our inception, Keep A Breast has made connections with younger generations about breast health through music, art, skate, and surf keep a breastculture. We meet young people where they are and we empower them with the education to help them be their own, best advocates.

In many ways, we’re still the same. Keep A Breast exists because we are called by our community to show up and do what we do. We still work with many of the same friends and supporters that we always have. These days, we have grown so much and I could not be more excited for the future. We have affiliate locations in Europe, Canada, Japan, Chile and Mexico. Now technology plays a huge role in getting our message out there and through our Check Yourself! App we have reached young people in over 100 countries.

2. What differentiates you from other breast cancer awareness organizations?

When I started Keep A Breast I realized that no one was truly reaching young people with breast cancer education and support. Existing organizations were not operating at the cultural level of teens and twenty-somethings. In response, I developed a series of educational programs that attempted to reach youth “in their comfort zones.” This was the basis of Keep A Breast’s interactive teaching efforts such as our Travelling Education Booth and Check Yourself! breast self-check cards. With this, KAB was born. KAB demonstrates a new non-profit model, one that assumes that today’s young people are articulate, critical, and ready to establish their identities through meaningful action. They are ready to be engaged and educated and we are so honored to be the ones to spread awareness to them.

3. What is the hardest decision the organization has had to make recently?

I don’t personally subscribe to this idea of hard decisions in business. I just don’t see it that way. As a non-profit organization, we exist to fulfill our mission. Daily decisions make sure we evolve as we go, and maintain transparency with our donors. Change is exciting and good, and a “hard” decision usually opens a new door or opportunity that was not there before.

4. What do you, personally, spend most of your time on?

I spend most of my time being awesome and taking care of myself! HA! I wish! In truth, I have to challenge myself to take care of myself daily and walk the talk. I have to do yoga, be mindful and eat well to set a good example for my staff and our audience. I oversee our team globally and help support everyone with their program outreach and goals. Personally, I work on all our partnerships and collaborations daily; from the details of what they will be, to their goals, to the strategy and messaging.

5. I noticed KAB runs three different programs: Check Yourself!, Treasured chest, and Non Toxic Revolution.  Can you touch briefly on what each of those entails and how they accomplish the KAB mission?

Check Yourself!

The Check Yourself! program aims to encourage young people to perform a monthly self-check. With 40% of diagnosed breast cancer being self-detected, establishing what is “normal” is an important step to knowing your body and knowing when something is wrong. Keep A Breast has always encouraged young people to not only love their boobies, but to know their bodies and be aware of any changes. Knowledge is power. Engaging young people early on, in their environment, is key in helping them develop healthy habits. We deliver this program in three unique ways, through printed education materials, our free digital app, and art exhibitions.

Treasured Chest

The Keep A Breast Treasured Chest Program (TCP) is KAB’s signature artistic support program for breast cancer survivors. TCP provides any woman diagnosed with breast cancer an opportunity to document her body and feelings by turning her casted torso into a beautiful work of art. These unique pieces, The Keep A Breast Foundation Breast Casts™, are one-of-a-kind plaster forms that combine sculpture, charity, and artistry. They communicate complex emotions about breast health and the female form, allowing the castee to capture a specific point in her breast cancer journey. The free TCP kit contains all the materials needed, including an instructional video, to make a treasured chest.

Non Toxic Revolution

Non Toxic Revolution (NTR) informs, educates, and inspires young people about the dangers of toxic chemicals in their environment and food supply—especially those linked to the initiation of breast cancer. The NTR program is both an informational resource and a call to action, backed by its own website, www.nontoxicrevolution.org.

NTR uses art, music, and creative messaging to inform, educate, and inspire young people to revolt against the dangers of toxic chemicals in their everyday environment and personal care products. Moreover, NTR also teaches young people to become their own health advocates, both personally and through activism.

6. How are you really collaborating with other organizations on a local, regional, or national level? What are some examples? How would you like to enhance these efforts?

It’s hard to reallllyyyy collaborate with other organizations because of funding. Funding is scarce for all of us which forces us to focus on our own missions. We work with and are friends with many organizations that you should all check out and support.

  • When survivors come to us looking for information at the time of diagnosis and after, we refer them to our friends at Young Survival Coalition and Stupid Cancer who support survivors nationally.
  • We partner with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. They help us with the science behind our campaigns and we help them spread the word about their actions.
  • We partner with The Environmental Working Group. They also help us with the science behind our campaigns.  We help them create teen versions of their campaigns like the Teen Sunscreen Guide.
  • We are a part of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. We share resources with the other coalition members and collaborate on campaigns regarding single-use plastics.

We would love to increase our efforts to collaborate with other organizations in an advocacy capacity. In our current political state, we believe in the importance of young people’s involvement in shaping their future.  Avocacy remains a crucial step in that. Helping other organizations further their efforts to pass legislation that improves women’s health or regulates toxic ingredients is the perfect enhancement of our education, and ultimately our mission.

7. To what degree have you attracted NEW people and new ideas to KAB?

We hope your readers will be inspired and join us as volunteers, interns, bringing new ideas to the organization. We use art to educate and inspire.  We are always looking to connect with a new audience, whether it be race car fans, country music fans, or students. We work with all types of influencers from athletes to celebrities to help us get the word out in an authentic way. We have a fundraising activation called DIY Action, where anyone can throw a fundraiser for Keep A Breast. This has been a great way for KAB to be introduced to all kinds of new audiences in places all over the world. From the craft beer community to the yoga community to even chili enthusiasts.

8. How do you use your funds to help people? What does community impact look like to you?

The funds we receive fund our programs; Check Yourself, Treasured Chest, and Non Toxic Revolution. Based on those programs, community impact can show itself in many forms.

It could be keep a breasta survivor casting her breasts before she has a double mastectomy, expressing all those complex emotions by preserving her form and making it into a work of art, helping her through the changes to come. It could look like a kid on Vans Warped Tour visiting our booth, downloading our app, and telling their friends and family about it. Then a year later, messaging us that their sister found a lump, but caught it early because of our app, and now she’s going to just fine. It could be someone taking our Deodorant Challenge, breaking away from a toxic deodorant, and taking that first step to becoming their own health advocate. Ultimately, community impact looks like empowerment to us.  By giving people the knowledge to make choices and adopt healthy habits, they can positively change their lives.

9. How can CBD College get involved and volunteer? How do you support your volunteers?

We look for volunteers and interns all year long for may of our events. You can check out volunteer opportunities on our website or follow us on our social media where we post opportunities. All our volunteers go through onboarding so we get familiar with each other. Our volunteers and interns all become part of the Keep A Breast family for years to come.  We even hire some volunteers and interns.

10. How do you express appreciation? How do you thank people?

We live in gratitude daily and are always expressing our gratitude.  We are blessed to have the opportunity to fulfill our mission. We send thank you emails and cards to our donors. We have appreciation lunches for our volunteers and interns. We couldn’t do what we do without the help of many people, and we make sure they know that.

As future healthcare professionals, the Keep a Breast organization brings so much excitement to the CBD College family.  Be sure you visit http://keep-a-breast.org and discover more ways you can get involved, donate, and advocate for breast health.