The eyes have it in this entry in the annual Bras for a Cause fundraiser at The Flower Shoppe in Port McNeill.

Bras fundraiser needs support

Dwindling participation cause for concern for organizers.

PORT McNEILL—With less than a month to go before final judging — and with a wildly popular winter social event hanging into the balance — the founder of the Bras for Cause fundraiser is wondering if the promotion has become a victim of its own success.

“It seems the novelty has kind of worn off,” Lyn Skrlac said last week while standing in Port McNeill’s Flower Shoppe, where roughly 15 crazily decorated bras hung in front of a shop window painted with multiple pink “ribbons”. “But we’re still making a contribution; we’re still helping a worthwhile cause.”

Bras for a Cause debuted on the North Island four summers ago, after Skrlac found a similar contest online and decided to do her part in the effort to combat breast cancer.

The concept is simple — participants apply creativity to turn a basic foundation article into a work of art, pay $5 to have it displayed in The Flower Shoppe’s window for the summer, then wait as the bras earn additional money through customer votes before final judging results are announced at OrcaFest, the town’s annual summer festival, in mid-August.

In its first year, 2010, Bras for a Cause drew more than 70 entries, including a number from summer visitors who created them while staying in motels or on boats in the harbour. Groups of people, including families and children, held decorating parties and brought in themed bras a dozen at a time.

But that number fell to just more than 50 the next year. And in last summer’s promotion, fewer than 40 bras were created. This, despite the addition of a spin-off event started by Port McNeill’s Cheryl Verbrugge — the Victor’s Secret Pageant — that has sold out the Community Hall the past two years with revelers who come to watch the community’s men don the bras and strut their stuff on a runway to raise thousands more for the cause.

The dwindling participation in the local fundraiser is somewhat perplexing to Skrlac, who has noticed a profusion of similar events spring up on Vancouver Island and beyond since she first hosted the competition.

“It’s raising money in strange and wonderful ways,” Skrlac said. “I don’t think people realize how far the money goes. But I’d really like to see more entries.”

There is certainly no lack of creativity in the handful of bras currently on display. Some of the creations are highly decorative, including a creation of fall leaves and another boasting a brightly coloured “Phoenix” rising from the ashes. Others are more whimsical, including “Candy Stripers” with its multitude of red-and-white striped peppermint candies; “Nice Guns” with a pair of six-shooters adorning the cups; and “Red Solo Cup”, a red half-bra that pays homage both to the country music hit by Toby Keith and, whether intended or not, to single mastectomy patients.

Skrlac has her shop up for sale, and admits she’s not sure how much longer she will run the Bras for a Cause event. She said the spin-off events she sees making money in other communities are nice, but would like to see more done here on the North Island, particularly since the Victor’s Secret Pageant donates its money specifically to benefit local patients and causes related to breast cancer treatment and research.

“I’m encouraged by what I see and hear,” she said. “But I still want people to bring them into the store, because that’s what allows Victor’s Secret to happen.”