Bras for a Cause
Stringing 1,000 braziers across the Center Avenue bridge - a main gateway to Merrill - is by design a spectacle that can't be ignored.
With Crazy Daze and Relay for Life being held in the same week, the newly revitalized Discover Downtown Merrill Business Association decided to draw those events together with an attention-grabbing cancer awareness campaign. Bras Across the Bridge also ties in with the Merrill Chamber's "Crazy for a Cause" Crazy Daze theme.
"You need an innovative idea if you're doing something on very little money," said Bras Across the Bridge co-chair Christine Vorpagel.
Bras Across the Bridge may be accused of being somewhat tacky, but the organizers are willing to live with that. The campaign is all about drawing attention, both to downtown Merrill and the fight against breast cancer. In fact, they're hoping the spectacle on the bridge draws curiosity seekers from other communities, as well.
"We want it to be edgy and we want them to come downtown," said Bras Across the Bridge co-chair D'Lacey Haight. "We need people to come to Merrill."
Bras Across the Bridge is new to Merrill, but similar events have been done elsewhere.
"We're not blazing any trails," Haight said. "This has been done other places."
Before going public, organizers ran their idea past the local Relay for Life committee and the American Cancer Society. Bras Across the Bridge was first announced at the Merrill Relay for Life Survivors Brunch in April.
Breast cancer survivor Sarah Litzer of Merrill, who was diagnosed late last year and had a double mastectomy in January, said she fully supports Bras Across the Bridge.
"The best thing I can do is tell these businesses that this is definitely an OK thing with a survivor," Litzer said. "I think it's a great idea."
In fact, she has donated all of her no-longer-needed bras to the cause.
"I donated every single one of them," she said. "It was kind of cathartic almost."
The Bras Across the Bridge campaign was rolled out at the downtown block party on June 22, when bra collection began. More than 300 bras have been collected thus far, with a goal of 1,000 by July 25.
"We are on target, but we can't let up. We need more bras," Vorpagel said.
The purpose of the collection is to highlight the fight against breast cancer with the Bras Across the Bridge display. The bras will be hung up just prior to Merrill's Downtown Crazy Day on Aug. 2, a premier community event complete with retail sales, music, and street food. The Bras Across the Bridge display will underscore fundraising efforts by local groups for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event, taking place at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds Aug. 3 and 4.
Drop off locations for the bras are Gress Wellness Center, Thelmas/Johnson Gifts, Curves, Merrill Ace Hardware, Blooming Wishes, 1st Street Coffee Station and Waves. Many businesses are also collecting donations to the Merrill Relay for Life.
The last date to drop off bras for Bras Across the Bridge is Wednesday, July 25.
The bras will be attached to a line on July 28 and strung across the bridge on July 29. They will be on display through Crazy Daze and the Relay for Life before being lowered on Aug. 4. The bras will then be donated to "The Bra Recyclers," a textile recycling company that distributes recycled bras around the world to women and girls in need.
Numerous downtown businesses have put up displays in their front windows to support the campaign. Most are decorated with bras, and some have a very personal message from business owners whose own lives have been touched by cancer.
Several fund raisers are being held in conjunction with Bras Across the Bridge. Many businesses are selling paper bras or offering other ways to support the Relay for Life.
People are invited to guess how many bras will ultimately be collected. For $1 per guess, the person who gets closest will win a bundle of downtown business gift certificates. Entries can be submitted at Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe on East Main Street until July 28. All proceeds from the contest will be donated to Relay for Life.
Discover Downtown Merrill has established its own virtual Relay for Life team, which is collecting donations for the Relay.