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Haddonfield Softball teams up with sisters for a cure

A victim’s daughters help raise awareness of breast cancer

Haddonfield 12/14U softball players Isabella Franco (left to right), Mae Iannott, and Elouise Shields prepared to distribute breast cancer awareness ribbons at Kings Court earlier this month. (Special to The Sun)

To recognize and support October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, girls from Haddonfield Softball’s 12/14U and 10U teams distributed 300 pink awareness ribbons and raised more than $200 for the Tyanna Foundation on Oct. 8.

Attached to the ribbons were QR codes that enabled people to donate to the foundation via PayPal and Venmo, as well as the Haddonfield softball website.

“It was a really great, bringing the girls together, working on something that wasn’t just a sport and competition, but it’s, ‘Hey, let’s go out into the community, let’s show them who we are and support a local foundation,’” said Shannon Finegan, director of public relations for the teams. 

The players also painted pumpkins pink for breast cancer awareness before the event and invited the O’Brien sisters to throw the first pitch at their Oct. 23 game. The foundation is named for Tyanna Barre O’Brien and is run by her five daughters. It raises funds to help support breast cancer patients and raise awareness of the cancer and its prevention. 

“It’s five sisters and an army of volunteers, and we work tirelessly to make breast cancer more comfortable for patients and less prevalent on the planet,” said Haddonfield resident Katie Bogle, one of Barre O’Brien’s daughters. “We’re all about family care, patient care and wellness.”

The foundation began in 1998 in Athens, Georgia, after Sarah O’Brien found her mother’s diary of her struggles with cancer. It has since grown to include Maryland and New Jersey locations.

“I feel like people talk about (breast cancer), even the little kids now, which is awesome, because when my mom had it, it wasn’t anything anyone talked about,” said Bridget Mink, an O’Brien sister. “It was kind of hush hush after she had it, even after she passed.”

Finegan noted that during the fundraising, many people approached the team and shared their personal stories of surviving or losing a loved one to breast cancer, including the organizer of the Kings Court Farmer’s Market – site of the event – and the president of Haddonfield Softball.

Mink reflected on how the foundation’s focus has shifted from raising awareness in memory of their mom to friends and others who have been diagnosed with breast cancer along the way.  

“It’s crazy how it shifts,” she noted.

The foundation’s state branch raises funds for Virtua Hospital’s comfort care fund to provide wigs, scarves, transportation, medication and support services to breast cancer patients unable to do those things for themselves. Finegan wants to continue the partnership in the future.

“We just really want to make the experience comfortable for patients and easier for their families when their mom or caregiver isn’t up for the task,” Bogle said.

The Tyanna Foundation is known for its June Breast Fest, what Bogle described as the organization’s flagship event. It includes live music and arts and crafts and uses humor and a party atmosphere to raise awareness.

O’Brien sisters do the “Check your breast” song and dance at Breast Fest earlier this year. (Special to The Sun/The Sun)

In past years, the foundation has partnered with Bell’s Bodies Fitness to hold a Burpees for Breast Cancer boot camp event that attracted close to 100 people and raised as much as $7,000. The event was put on pause by COVID, but this year it will be virtual. It begins Saturday and continues through November. 

The foundation will also partner with ReUp Fashion in Haddon Township for a Sip and Shop on Nov 17. Throughout October, Haddonfield Softball will continue to raise funds for the foundation on its website at https://www.haddonfieldsoftball.com/.

To learn more about the Tyanna Foundation, visit https://tyanna.org/.

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