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VIPink: Empowering change through ambassador fundraising

For community leaders motivated to help end breast cancer, Susan G. Komen’s ambassador fundraising programs offer dedicated supporters a chance to engage with their networks to fundraise in support of Komen’s vision of a world without breast cancer.

For several years, leaders in communities across the U.S. have supported Komen through the BigWigs and Pink Tie Guys ambassador programs, which unite passionate advocates around fundraising for Komen and work to mobilize, energize and engage their personal and professional networks to support the breast cancer movement.

This fall, Komen will launch VIPink, an ambassador fundraising program that allows community leaders to choose how they fundraise. “Our current local ambassador fundraising programs – Pink Tie Guys and BigWigs – will continue to operate within VIPink but will expand to nationwide programs to allow them to compete with fellow fundraisers both locally and nationally,” said Tisho Jessop, Manager of DIY and Ambassador Fundraising Programs at Komen. “VIPink also opens the door for greater flexibility for our VIPink ambassadors. It doesn’t have to be a wig or a tie; it can be whatever the fundraiser wants it to be.”

VIPink ambassadors approach their fundraising in a number of ways. Below, we highlight the journeys of three of Komen’s dedicated supporters who inspired others to give back and make a meaningful impact in the fight to end breast cancer.

Rick Cavender: Utilizing his songwriting talent to raise awareness and funds

A man with glasses is in a recording studio, wearing headphones. Donning a pink tie, he stands before a microphone, his hand to his chest as he reads from a script on a music stand. The backdrop of soundproofing panels attests to the importance of his message for the breast cancer fundraising campaign.

Every October for the last 10 years, Rick Cavender, CEO of San Antonio-based Cavender Auto Family, made sure his family’s 18 car dealerships recognized the people impacted by breast cancer in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But he knew he could do more. He connected with Komen and learned about their plans to launch a Pink Tie Guys ambassador fundraising campaign in San Antonio. He knew the campaign was right up his alley.

“I lost my mother-in-law to breast cancer, and I’ve had employees who have faced this terrible disease,” he said. “Participating in the Pink Tie Guys fundraising challenge was the perfect opportunity for me to honor them.”

As a part of his efforts to bring awareness to the cause, Rick, who has fronted the Rick Cavender Band for more than 40 years, wrote and recorded a song, “I’m Your Pink Tie Guy.” He released it on social media at the beginning of the Pink Tie Guys fundraising challenge.

“We teased the song and the event in the month leading up to the event, and I even sang it to customers as they waited in our service department,” he said. “I wore my pink tie, and it was all about keeping the cause at the front of everyone’s mind.”

By the end of the campaign, Rick’s fundraising efforts brought in nearly $25,000 to support Komen’s work to end breast cancer, and he was recognized as the Top Overall Fundraiser for the 2024 campaign.

Tray Henry: Getting social to help end breast cancer forever

Person dressed in a bright pink outfit, including a suit, cowboy hat, and bandana, holding a pink electric guitar. They have long, wavy hair and are also wearing sunglasses. The background is plain white. This vibrant look is part of a Susan G. Komen breast cancer fundraising campaign.

As a mother of seven and the owner of Hairajuku Salon in her hometown of Redlands, CA., Tray Henry is a pro at juggling multiple projects. When her father nominated her as an ambassador for Komen’s BigWigs campaign in the Inland Empire, she got to work.

“My dad and aunts have all been BigWigs in the past, so it’s something I’ve known about for a while,” Tray said. “My maternal grandmother had breast cancer, and my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 36. I knew I had to participate.”

As a part of her fundraiser, Tray decorated the salon and donned her pink wig to greet clients as they entered and told them about the campaign. “Embracing the ‘pink everything’ was so much fun,” she said. “You’re a different person when you put on that pink wig.”

A group of people posing indoors, all dressed in various shades of pink in festive attire for a Susan G. Komen breast cancer fundraising event. Some are wearing hats and sunglasses, and there are pink balloons in the background. A large television screen displays an image, and the setting appears to be a modern event space.

Tray found additional success by sharing her fundraising link on Facebook. Her best tip to future fundraising ambassadors? “Just ask! The No. 1 thing I did was reach out to people and make a personal ask. Generally, people are willing to give and support campaigns like this, they just need to be asked,” she said.

Her strategy paid off. She raised more than $56,000 and earned the title of the Inland Empire’s “Biggest Wig” for her efforts. “Before I committed to fundraising, I had the opportunity to hear from a breast cancer survivor who had received support from Komen,” Tray said. “Hearing her story was refreshing and a breath of fresh air. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a BigWig.”

Neal Brackett: Leveraging his ‘secret weapon’ to help support breast cancer research

A man wearing sunglasses and a dark t-shirt kneels beside a young girl in a pink dress and toy firefighter hat. They are both smiling. The girl is holding a small white toy and they are in front of a pink emergency vehicle decorated with drawings and text.

Neal Brackett first supported Komen through his local Race for the Cure, organizing a fundraising team with his family to honor his grandmother’s breast cancer diagnosis.

In 2019, Brackett, a defense attorney and partner with Barnes & Thornburg, LLP in Indianapolis, was invited to meet with Komen staff. He became an ambassador and joined the Komen Indiana board of directors. He participated in the Indiana BigWigs campaign in 2022. “It was such a great experience that when Komen asked if I wanted to be an ambassador again in 2024, I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.

A child is dressed in a bright pink wig and a fluffy pink and white robe with a crown on her head. They are standing in front of a step-and-repeat banner featuring logos for Big Wigs, Barnes & Thornburg LLC, and Susan G. Komen's fundraising for breast cancer.

This time, he brought out his “secret weapon” – his four-year-old daughter, Asha. “I thought I would leverage her cuter dimples to see if we could raise even more money,” he said. “She is a little performer, so it was not hard to convince her to have her picture taken and ask people to donate.”

The family co-hosted a family-friendly fundraiser at their local trampoline park and invited supporters, classmates, family and friends. “We had about 80 people show up, and the park donated a portion of the day’s proceeds to the campaign,” Neal said.

Asha and her fellow BigWigs were recognized for collectively raising more than $70,000 at the campaign’s finale celebration on March 7. Asha was crowned the “Biggest Wig” for raising $27,400 during the six-week fundraising period.

“She was awarded a crown with a long, pink cape,” Neal said. “Everyone was clapping for her, and she enjoyed every minute of it.”

Committed to a shared goal to create a world without breast cancer

While these three ambassadors followed different paths in their fundraising, they all shared a single vision: to raise awareness and crucial funds to help support Komen’s mission to end breast cancer forever. To learn more about Komen’s ambassador fundraising initiatives and the upcoming launch of VIPink, email Tisho Jessop, Manager of DIY and Ambassador Fundraising Programs at