Soldier Up

One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of their lives. Yet many young women are still uninformed of preventative measures and resources until it’s too late. Breast cancer survivor Donna Cioffi is determined to end that trend by breaking the silence. “I couldn’t just sit with my disease and feel sorry for myself when there are too many women out there who don’t know how to help themselves.”

In April 2010, Cioffi founded First Company Pink, a nod at the military definition of “company” as a group of soldiers. The group has a threefold mission focused on “winning the war” against breast cancer: prevention, education and fundraising. The nonprofit launched its “got checked?” campaign as a call to action, because “posing a question that demands an immediate answer forces women to think about scheduling that first appointment.” July 6 is now annually recognized as “got checked?” Day in the Town of Babylon, but for Cioffi, that wasn’t enough.

Cioffi and her team created a clothing line and two music videos to seize the attention of the youth population, and this past summer they published Decode Your Future, a book about breast health awareness. “From the time they hit puberty to 40 years old, there’s a gap of lacking education for our girls that has to change.” The charity developed an interactive education workshop, consisting of “got checked?” resources, videos and a breast health manual to be considered by Suffolk County schools as required breast cancer curriculum.

The “semi-serious” approach, using song and creative styles, aims to disseminate knowledge regarding the disease and its widespread prevalence on LI in an approachable way. Cioffi has extended her vision to Albany, receiving a grant from New York State, and hopes to integrate breast cancer education in health curricula nationwide. “I fought a battle that so many others have been through and I was blessed to be one of the lucky ones. First Company Pink will arm women with the resources they need to protect themselves in this war.