Calendar Close-up: Pink-Aid brings 'crucial' breast cancer fundraiser back to Westport

A model wears an outfit at the Pink Aid fundraiser at Mitchells in Westport at a previous event.

A model wears an outfit at the Pink Aid fundraiser at Mitchells in Westport at a previous event.

Meg Barone

The statistics are well-known, and sobering: One in eight women receive a breast cancer diagnosis during their lifetime. Between 20 and 30 million American women with breast cancer lose their jobs. Each year, one in 10 American families cannot pay for basic needs, due to medical expenses.

An impressive array of organizations and foundations raise money to pay for breast cancer research. Across the country, people of all ages run and walk “for the cure.” But for many breast cancer patients – and their loved ones – the focus is even more immediate than an eventual cure. It’s as basic as: How do I get to my doctor’s appointments? How can I pay for childcare right now? Can I afford a wig?

The toxicity of financial stress can be as lethal as that of chemotherapy. It’s hard to heal physically when emotional stress can be overwhelming.

Since 2011, Pink Aid has addressed those frightening questions. Its mission is “to provide compassionate support, critical resources and emergency financial assistance to underserved breast cancer patients and their families.” The goal is to help patients preserve their dignity, feel supported by their community, and empowered to carry on and help others in turn.

The four founders – two-time breast cancer survivor Amy Katz, Mitchells co-owner Andrew Mitchell-Namdar, Amy Gross and Renee Mandis – have all been touched in some way by breast cancer. All have been laser-focused on that vision. In just over a decade, they have raised and donated more than $6.4 million to 47 organizations in Connecticut and on Long Island, and provided compassionate support to more than 20,000 women.

That’s real money. And it makes a real difference to women, their spouses and children at a time when the rest of their lives can seem out of control.
The Pink Purse Program, for example, pays for expenses like rent, mortgage, utilities, transportation, childcare, food and other essential needs. Pink Aid receives, on average, one application a day, and pays up to $1,000 annually – along with a $100 Stop & Shop gift card.

Two years ago, Pink Purse expanded nationally. So far they’ve funded nearly 300 women, in 30 states. Most requests are for gas, transportation and utility payments.

Pink Posse was added in 2018, to provide additional assistance to Pink Purse’s most vulnerable patients. Assistance includes cleaning and hygiene products, towels, linens, furniture, small appliances, diapers, formula and other practical necessities.

There are other needs too, that can be difficult to ask for and pay for, like prosthetics and recovery garments.

Money is important. But so is human connection. Pink Aid’s Peer-to-Peer Mentorship program matches a new patient with a survivor, immediately after diagnosis. Over 400 survivors have “paid ti forward,” providing a path toward light during the darkest times in someone’s life.

Pink Aid’s founders and organizers – all volunteers – have been as forward-thinking in fundraising as they have been in programming. They’ve produced creative, fun events, that bring in much-needed donations. COVID canceled the last two in this area, however. So the 2022 in-person fundraiser will be both financially crucial, and especially emotional.

On Sept. 29, nearly 600 people will gather at Mitchells in Westport for the 12th annual Pinkchella. The Coachella-themed luncheon includes a fashion show, catering by Marcia Selden, music, surprises and more. Co-chairs Jill Halper and Andi Sklar have pulled out all the stops.

Keynote speaker Sarrah Strimel is a former Broadway showgirl, breast cancer survivor. founder of “Damn Good Yoga” and co-founder of “A Damn Good Life.” She’ll give an inspiring talk about her route to fertility and surrogacy, following her mastectomy.

A few tickets are still available. Visit for details.

But as great as Pinkchella will be, there are other ways to support Pink Aid. An online auction goes live on Sept. 22, and the items are truly unique. 

Among them: a luxury trip to French Polynesia, including round-trip business class tickets on Air Tahiti Nui from the West Coast, and stays in Bora Bora and a private island resort; a stay at the One & Only resort in Montenegro, and courtside seats at a Milwaukee Bucks game with the team owner (plus a trip on his private jet to get there). More information, and bidding, is available at

Not everyone can afford those items, of course. But for over a decade, Pink Aid has reached out to those who can, to help those who can’t. Our home-grown organization is changing the face of breast cancer here and across the country, one wig, utility bill and food card at a time.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer. His new column ‘Calendar Close-up’ appears each Friday and dives into one of the upcoming community events in Westport. He can be reached at His personal blog is