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Baraboo cancer group to hold winter tournament

January 25, 2019

Little acts of kindness can make a big difference to someone dealing with a cancer diagnosis — that’s one of the messages Baraboo native Mary Beth Olsen will impart at the Baraboo Breast Savers winter tournament next weekend.

Offering a card, a meal or some labor, such as mowing the lawn or shoveling the walk, is plenty. No grand gestures necessary.

“That is the importance of Baraboo Breast Savers,” Olsen, 55, wrote in an email. “While donating to cancer research is great, when you’re facing surgery or other treatment it’s really about the friendly face of a community member that makes a difference.”

When she was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer after a routine mammogram in 2014, she already knew of the nonprofit organization because she had participated in its annual Catch 4 A Cure softball tournament for years despite having moved to Sun Prairie. After the diagnosis — luckily an early find — the group sent her a check and a card to let her know they were thinking of her.

“Those sorts of gestures made the emotional fear of going through cancer much more bearable,” Olsen wrote.

She underwent a mastectomy in 2014 and is now cancer-free, while preparing to give the opening speech at the Pink Ribbon Winter Classic to be held Feb. 2 at North Shore Restaurant and Bar, south of Baraboo. A special education teacher in Sun Prairie, she has a wife, Liz, and a 10-year-old daughter, EllaGrace.

The event, formerly known as the Ta-Ta Tourney, is in its seventh year and caters to a younger crowd, said Kris Craker, president of Baraboo Breast Savers Inc. Participants come in teams to compete at blind volleyball, dodgeball, horseshoes, bean bag toss, an obstacle course and other games and skills contests.

“Then they hear the opening ceremonies, and it kind of hits home to them,” Craker said.

North Shore gives a percentage of its sales that day to the nonprofit group. The organization also is partnering with Bar Buddies Boo for the first time this year to make sure participants can enjoy themselves still make it home safely.

One of the staples each year are the jello and pudding shots, raffles and a “bra parade” featuring bras decorated by each team and usually modeled by men.

As of Monday, 14 teams had signed up, though organizers aim to recruit six more. They usually draw about 200 people, 10 in each group plus friends and family, Craker said. It’s not their biggest fundraiser, but it raises an average of $7,000.

That money goes directly to local patients going through cancer treatment and toward scholarships, area groups and cancer research. Last year, the Baraboo Breast Savers gave out two $3,000 scholarships and donated to the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, Sauk Prairie Bosom Buddies, Lynn’s Legacy and the SSM Health St. Clare Foundation, in addition to several individuals, for a total of almost $25,000, according to Craker.

Already this year, one person is receiving financial help since being diagnosed with breast cancer. She gives a bill to the Breast Savers, which then determines if it’s within the scope of expenses the group covers.

“We want people to know we’re here” to help, Craker said. People who need help can contact Baraboo Breast Savers at 608-448-4000 or baraboobreastsavers@gmail.com.

The group also wants to showcase perspectives from cancer survivors’ family and friends to increase awareness of what it’s like to have a loved one go through something so difficult. A new event, Survivor’s Reception, will be held in October.

For more information on events, visit baraboobreastsavers.org or the Baraboo Breast Savers Facebook page.

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