Alisa Savoretti, founder of My Hope Chest, created the nonprofit after her own struggles affording reconstructive surgery after surviving breast cancer. The former Las Vegas showgirl even performed when she had only one breast, mere weeks after chemotherapy treatment ended in March 2003. She performed under the name “The Lopsided Showgirl.”
SEMINOLE – Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit, Alisa Savoretti has done it all: performed in Las Vegas as a showgirl, worked as a court reporter in Los Angeles, founded an online furniture store.
But she’s also a breast cancer survivor, which has inspired the most ambitious endeavor of her life: My Hope Chest. The organization assists uninsured women around the country who have lost one or both breasts during their fight with breast cancer to pay for their reconstructive surgery, which the larger breast cancer charities don’t fund.
Nearly 22,000 women each year lose their breasts to cancer and are unable to pay for reconstruction themselves because they’re uninsured or they can’t afford their deductible. This complicated surgery – which actually consists of three surgeries over the course of a year “to take a woman from flat to finished,” Savoretti said – costs around $25,000. While insurance companies consider it part of breast cancer treatment and include it in their healthcare plans, the uninsured are out of luck.
But it’s the final stage of treatment, Savoretti said, and necessary. “It would be nice if uninsured women could be taken from start to finish. Where is the support for the uninsured mastectomy, some say victim, but I say survivor?”
She acknowledges that while many charity dollars as possible need to be used for saving lives, it’s wrong to consider this reconstructive surgery unnecessary. After a mastectomy many women don’t feel like themselves anymore. It affects confidence and self-image, she said. “It changes how they look at themselves.”
This is where My Hope Chest comes in. It focuses solely on helping women afford this elusive reconstructive surgery they otherwise couldn’t afford on their own. It’s the only charity of its kind.
For the past 10 years, Savoretti has kept the nonprofit going, even when it seemed to be running on fumes, and said it’s finally gaining some momentum. My Hope Chest moved out of her Seminole home and into a suite at the Seminole Office Center, 7985 113th St. N., earlier this month. She’s also received national attention, with a mention in Fitness Magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine. Last October, Reader’s Digest named her one of the nine names to know in the fight against breast cancer.
My Hope Chest also has landed two national corporate sponsors. A portion of GenieBra’s sales are donated to the organization. Just last month, they sold 151,000 units, yielding $113,000 for the nonprofit. And Olga Bra is offering to match up to $75,000 donated to the organization through its website www.olgaintimates.com.
Savoretti hopes this is just the beginning and that even more money will begin to come in so she can hire the staff needed to properly run My Hope Chest. Ideally, there would be staff in place to recruit more volunteer surgeons. Her goal is to find at least one in each major city, that way the organization can assist more women.
She’s also gearing up for two major events this fall.
The Butterfly Glow Walk 5K Fun Run will take place the evening of Saturday, Sept. 20, at Pass-A-Grille Beach. Each entrant will receive glow sticks and butterfly wings. The second event is Hope Floats on BRA (Breast Reconstruction Awareness) Day, Wednesday, Oct. 15. Smaller groups and organizations can host their own BRA Day events for My Hope Chest around the country. The event is based around creating and launching Hope Floats Wish Boats on a lake, river or pond.