For breast cancer survivors, physical scars are often just the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. An auto dealership has stepped in to help.
Many organizations are devoted to stomping out breast cancer. But few focus on what happens after a woman survives — when life doesn't exactly go back to normal.
That's why Ed Morse Automotive Group has thrown its support behind My Hope Chest, a Largo-based nonprofit that raises money for women who have successfully battled breast cancer but can't afford to have breast reconstruction surgery — costs not covered by Medicare and Medicaid. It was founded in 2003 by Alisa Savoretti, a former Las Vegas showgirl and breast cancer survivor.
Savoretti had a mastectomy and continued to perform as the “Lopsided Showgirl,” but it took her nearly three years to undergo breast reconstruction surgery. During that time, she came to learn that the bulk of breast cancer fundraising efforts go toward awareness, early detection and treatment, and that tens of thousands of American women were living breastless, many of them suffering mental and emotional problems caused by feeling less than whole.
My Hope Chest, says Ed Morse Automotive Group chairman and CEO Teddy Morse, “helps take care of women after the [mastectomy] procedure and helps them feel whole again. A lot of the breast cancer recovery process is mental and emotional.”
Ed Morse Automotive Group began working with My Hope Chest about five years ago, donating a portion of every car sale made in October to the nonprofit. “We had wanted to do something different for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, because the charity that seems to 'own' that is the [Susan G.] Komen group,” says Morse.
This year, Ed Morse Cadillac Tampa, Ed Morse Mazda Lakeland, Ed Morse Cadillac Brandon and Ed Morse Mazda Port Richey collectively raised more than $23,000 for My Hope Chest. That brings the five-year total to more than $100,000.
Savoretti calls the Morse Group a “visionary company that recognizes that the power of the dollar at the grassroots level has such a greater impact. They are our only significant corporate partner, and I really commend them.”
The impact, she adds, will be felt by uninsured women who can now afford breast reconstruction, as well as insured women who can now meet the high deductibles often required by carriers. Savoretti says the procedure can cost between $25,000 and $200,000, and even if a women's insurance provider will cover it, the deductible often exceeds $5,000.
My Hope Chest has received enough charitable contributions over the years for Savoretti to make it her full-time job and even hire an assistant. But calling attention to her cause remains a constant challenge. “My Hope Chest is unique; we're the only charity doing what we do,” Savoretti says, adding that the organization has provided financial aid to women in Tampa, Sarasota and nationwide. “There's no other resource that will help women with this situation.”
For Morse, his reasons for supporting My Hope Chest are both simple and deeply personal. “People need help, and we have the ability to help them,” he says. “But I've seen what breast cancer can do to people; it's a horrible thing. I've known a few women in my life — some family, some friends — who have been affected by breast cancer. My wife and I, we have two baby girls, so some of these causes, they start to take on a bit of a different meaning ... when you have kids, you want everything to be good but you worry about what could happen down the road.”
Company: Ed Morse Automotive Group, Tampa
Organization: My Hope Chest, Largo
Giveback: Over the past five years, dealerships donated a portion of every car sale during the month of October, amounting to more than $100,000.
Mission: My Hope Chest raises funds for both insured and uninsured women who survive breast cancer but struggle to afford breast reconstruction surgery.