People driving across the bridge on West Yellowstone Highway Monday morning were probably wondering what a group of ladies, some dressed in all pink and others with fancy hats and feathery boas, were doing out in the cold, rainy weather.
The short answer was that the group had gathered to show their support and bring awareness to breast cancer by stringing bras all along the bridge.
Rita Russell and Peg Middleton came up with the idea after a visit to Nova Scotia, Canada, a few years ago. While in a small Canadian town, they saw a bridge that was lined with bras of all colors and sizes. To say they were intrigued would be an understatement.
“We found out that the bras were there to bring awareness to breast cancer,” Russell said. “It’s been on my mind ever since that trip, and I thought, ‘Why not do the same thing here?’”
So the two friends put their heads together and started working on their idea, which seemed daunting at first but came surprisingly easier than they thought it would.
First, Russell contacted Wyoming Department of Transportation who gave the approval for the project. The next step was collecting bras.
Donation boxes were set up at the library and Allure Boutique, where they quickly were filled up.
“We collected them from everywhere we could,” Russell laughed. “We ended up with 402 bras in total.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so the dynamic duo decided to put the word out to the community for help. They set the bra hanging date, Sept. 30, so they would be done for the whole month of October.
Despite the cold wind and the rain coming down, a large group of women, some breast cancer survivors themselves, gathered together and got to work.
Douglas Mayor Rene Kemper was on hand ready to get going. Kemper was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer almost a year ago and is now in remission after a number of chemotherapy treatments.
“It’s hard to put into words how wonderful this community is,” Kemper said. “It’s wonderful to see the support that this cause is getting.”
The group consisted of cancer survivors and supporters, including mother/daughter team Becky and Sara Emery.
Sara was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2017.
“Oct. 20, 2017,” Sara said. “You never forget that day.”
After rounds of chemo and radiation treatments, a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, she happily reports that she is now in remission.
“I wanted to slap that doctor when I got the news. I was so angry,” Sara said.
With Becky at her side, she fought the disease and is now cancer free.
“The support in Douglas is amazing,” Sara said. “The community has done so much for cancer survivors; it’s really amazing.”
Once the bras were hung, all 402 of them, Russell stepped back.
“I love it,” she said. “I think it’s great, and it brings awareness to an important cause.”
She knows that this community has been greatly affected by cancer, all types, not just breast, and wants to bring awareness to the cause.
The hanging took just over an hour which was far less time than they expected. While they were working, cars and trucks crossing the bridge honked and waved to show their support.
“We even had a gentleman slow down and gave us a big thumbs up,” Middleton noted, then adding with a laugh, “His daughter looked a little embarrassed, though.”
Sara was especially touched.
“I don’t wish it on anyone. It was a long couple of years. It’s an education that you really don’t want,” she said. “But seeing this community come together to bring awareness is amazing.”