Wind and rain wasn’t enough to stop 64 women from ziplining naked or topless for breast cancer research Thursday at ZipZone Adventure Park in Peachland.
The group, which included breast cancer survivors and women who have lost loved ones to the disease, raised about $24,000 for the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
About 10 of those women were there to show their support for Karen Acaster, who has been cancer free for nearly two years, but recently found out she has a mutated gene; therefore, she’ll need to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes, as well as her other breast, removed at the end of July.
“It will be about another year of surgery and recovery,” said Acaster.
Most of Acaster’s supporters joined her by travelling from the Lower Mainland for the event. It’s one of the many “crazy things” the group has done in recent years to support their friend.
Acaster said the group’s participation in Thursday’s fundraiser and previous CIBC Run for the Cure events have brought in dollars for breast cancer research; however, the group has also taken on individual fundraisers to support Acaster financially.
“Because I’m self-employed, what people don’t understand is when you go through a critical illness there are no benefits…I would be homeless if it weren’t for my friends,” said Acaster.
“It’s amazing, through this whole journey I’ve had total strangers become friends and I’ve had friends become sisters.”
Acaster said she wasn’t too scared prior to ziplining 380-feet above the ground without any clothes on.
“When you’ve faced a critical illness (and have been) brought to your knees with the kind of breast cancer I’ve had…this, in comparison, is exciting.”
Jane Christie was another first-time participant in the naked zipline event.
“My mom had breast cancer and it’s actually her birthday today,” said Christie.
“This is a great way to honour her.”
Christie added it was easy to get donations for this unique type of fundraiser.
“People were excited to contribute. They were like: If you’re getting naked, I’m giving you money.”
Kamloops’ Sue-Ann Hall was visiting Kelowna a few weeks ago when she read about the fundraiser in a local newspaper.
“I thought: I’ve got to do that,” said Hall.
“I got a lot of support from my work. Within the first day (of fundraising), I had enough money raised. I eventually doubled that.”
Hall brought along her friend, Norlene White, whose mother had breast cancer and was a survivor for many years.
White said her mother, who had a mastectomy, suffered from negative public perception at the time.
“That was in the 1980s when people were quite shy…now, people don’t have to be shy, they can open up and talk about it,” said White.
According to ZipZone president Kevin Bennett, although there were 20 fewer participants than last year, the women managed to raise $8,000 more than last year’s total.
Along with the fundraiser, Bennett was also expecting to set a Guinness World Record this year for the largest number of naked zipliners at one event.
“I got an e-mail (Wednesday) morning from Guinness and they advised me the world record is held by an American zipline company. They had 183 naked zipliners. So the goal is to beat that next year,” said Bennett.
Despite the decrease in attendance this year, which Bennett said may have had a bit to do with the weather, attendance was still up significantly from the inaugural naked zipline fundraiser.
In 2011, eight females from SS Rodeo Rollergirls roller derby team approached Bennett with the fundraising concept—they managed to raise $1,500 for breast cancer research that year.
Carly Vliek was one of the eight women who participated two years ago and has taken part in the event every year since.
She said the public’s opinion of the naked zipline fundraiser has evolved.
“The first year we did it, we got a lot more negative kinds of attitudes toward it. The second year I think people realized that we were serious. This year it’s just kind of grown to be the norm,” said Vliek.
The cause hits close to home for Vliek as her mother and grandmother were both affected by breast cancer.
“I guess for myself and for my daughter, I just want to do all I can to prevent it,” said Vliek.
“I’m going to continue participating in it, and hopefully when my daughter gets to be 18, she’ll do it with me.”