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Taking a plunge to fight breast cancer

More than 100 people recently made a big splash in Fort Lauderdale, raising more than $6,000 to help women with breast cancer.

The nonprofit Glam-A-THON staged the Plunge! VIP Lounge fundraiser at the W Hotel Fort Lauderdale, with proceeds going to the Broward Health Foundation to help pay for mammograms, testing, diagnostics, treatment and assistance.

In the past three years, the group has raised $266,000 and funded breast cancer treatment for more than 200 women, said Traci Allyn Shur, director of operations for the Broward Health Foundation.

Breast cancer treatment will be provided at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale and Broward Health Coral Springs.

Glam-A-THON was founded eight years ago by Tammy Gail, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2003 and underwent treatment and surgery before being declared cancer-free. She established it to help provide access to health care to financially needy Broward women.

"Cancer is a very serious disease, and one in every eight women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. In that situation, it's not good to be alone with your thoughts," said Gail, the group's president. "I wanted the organization to be uplifting and fearless, fun and enjoyable, because we're all in this together."

The pool party event was the first of its kind, said event organizer Lais Pontes, who is also a Glam-A-THON board member and chairwoman of the group's HYPE (Headquarters for Young Professional Engagement) Council, which reaches out to the under-40 crowd. It featured barbecue-style cuisine and cocktails.

Kathryn Heath has benefited from help from the Broward Health Foundation. A private school teacher, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in spring 2012. Although she had health insurance through her job, as a single parent, she did not have enough savings to pay for treatments, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

"All of a sudden, I was in a financial crisis. My bills were stacking up, and I had no savings. I couldn't work in the summer because of my treatment, and if I lost my car, I wouldn't be able to go to work or keep my apartment. I would have lost my job, my apartment and my car," said Heath, of Deerfield Beach. "The Broward Health Foundation paid three months of my rent and car payments, gave me a gas card and a Publix card, and helped with my outstanding medical bills. … They definitely rescued me."

For more information, visit Glam-a-thon.com and Browardhealthfoundation.org.

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