Some of the volunteers from the East Rand branch of Reach for Recovery. The Ekurhuleni breast cancer awareness group was formed in 2009 in Kwa-Thema Springs. Breast cancer support group, Reach for Recovery, has been helping breast cancer patients for 45 years. Look out for them at the SPAR Johannesburg 10km Challenge this Sunday and support a good cause. Photo: Supplied

A portion of the proceeds from the Johannesburg SPAR 10km Challenge will be donated to Reach for Recovery, an organisation that supports breast cancer patients.

Former Miss SA Nicole Flint, Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley and SuperSport anchor Romy Titus will be involved in the Torch of Hope celebrity relay, which was started in 2011, as another means to raise awareness about Breast cancer.

Each of the celebrities will be running for a cause, and SPAR will donate R50 000 to Reach for Recovery. The organisation is totally reliant on donations and fund raising. One of their biggest sponsors is SPAR.

SPAR sponsorship manager Belinda Nel said: “We are very passionate about supporting women’s initiatives. That is why we have decided to give a portion of the proceeds from the Johannesburg SPAR 10Km Challenge to Reach for Recovery.

“Supporting them during the month of October is perfect synergy for us. We have been donating funds for Reach for Recovery for 12-years now and we will continue doing so.”

The Reach for Recovery ladies selling goods to raise funds at a recent function. Photo: Supplied Reach to Recovery was started in 1952 in the USA when Terese Lasser, a mastectomy patient, realised that not enough was being done for those whose lives had changed dramatically after breast cancer. She understood the importance of the role that personal support – by women who had experienced breast cancer – played in helping newly diagnosed women return to their previous life as quickly as possible after their surgery.

“Reach for Recovery has been in South Africa since 1967,” the non-profit organisation’s Renee Goedhals says. “South Africa was one of the first countries to establish a similar programme to the one that was launched in America.”

“Reach for Recovery also raises funds by selling crafts and having fund-raisers,” Goedhals says. “We also have church groups that sell things for us.”

The money is then used to help buy permanent (silicone) prostheses, which are offered to non-medical aid patients. The volunteers fit the patient and even supply a bra if needed.

“Prostheses cost between R550 and R700 so they are very expensive. A lot of women can’t afford them especially in the townships and they end up using tissue to stuff their bras. That really destroys a women’s confidence.”

Reach for Recovery is in all nine provinces in South Africa and even operates in countries to the north of South Africa. They’ve recently branched out into townships as well.

The Reach for Recovery volunteers give emotional and practical support to women before and after treatment. Patients are supplied with an information booklet and pamphlets dealing with various topics relevant to breast cancer patients. They also receive a soft prosthesis, a cushion for under arm comfort and a bag to hold the port-au-vac drain. These are all handmade by Reach for Recovery members and supporters.

The Reach for Recovery volunteers make the things they sell themselves. Photo: SuppliedVolunteers attend the breast clinics at state hospitals to offer support to non-medical aid patients. They also visit the radiation and chemotherapy units to counsel patients waiting for treatment.

“One of our challenges now is that most of our volunteers have full time jobs unlike in the 60s. So we now assign areas to different volunteers. The good thing about that is the nurses and doctors get to know you which makes the job easier.”

The group’s other challenges are to embark on out-reach programmes that will address the medical and social needs of all previously disadvantaged South Africans who live in the townships, informal settlements and rural areas.

An example of this is the Ekurhuleni Breast Cancer support group that was launched in October 2009 in Kwa-Thema, Springs by a Reach for Recovery volunteer, Josey Nonkonyana. The launch was attended by the Minister of Women, Children and People with disabilities, who gave it her unconditional support.

The Reach to Recovery International Breast Cancer Support Conference will be held in Africa for the first time in Cape Town in March, 2013.

“The theme of the conference is Together We Reach and it promises to be a uniquely African event, drawing together women affected by breast cancer to build connections and inspire progress through new partnerships. We are extremely proud to be hosting this event,” Goedhals says.

The Reach for Recovery volunteers will be selling goods at the SPAR Johannesburg 10km Challenge this Sunday to raise funds for the group.