A lot of things can happen to you at 26. You might score a dream job, hook up with your best mates to storm Central America or ride through the sweetest powder on the planet. One thing you wouldn’t expect is to be diagnosed with breast cancer. But that’s exactly what happened to the snowboarder Monica Steward in the late 90s. At the time she was working for Bonfire Clothing and was misdiagnosed three times because of her age.
To raise awareness among snowboarders and young people, Monica’s friends and fellow rippers Tina Basich, big air and backcountry legend, Shannon Dunn, Olympic medallist, and Lisa Hudson and Kathleen Gasperini set up Boarding for Breast Cancer (B4BC).
“There were no other foundations that focused on the education of breast cancer among the younger generation,” says Tina. “We didn’t have a plan or a big picture in mind when we started, we just knew that we needed to do something, get the word out that this can happen to anyone.”
They started off with a snowboard and music event in 1996 in Tahoe, USA, which received massive industry support. It helped that they also had Quasar, aka the Beastie Boys, playing. The event raised a whopping $50,000 and was such a quality party that the police had to break it up at the end of the night. Now they are a fully fledged non-profit organisation with over one million dollars raised towards the efforts of education about breast cancer.
They do this by running their own boardsports events, taking their info booth to other events on their wavelength, from the X Games and Vans Warped Tour to the US Open, teaming up with brands such as Burton for their Women’s Learn to Ride camps and running art competitions where the winning designs are auctioned, to name but a few. The team are continually amazed with how generous people within the boardsports industry can be, and no other scene has embraced the cause with such gusto.
One of the key messages of B4BC is to educate young people that early detection and a healthy active lifestyle, be that through snowboarding or jogging around your park, are central ways to prevent the disease.
In the UK, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women with one in nine women likely to suffer from it at some point in their lifetime. But the good news is survival rates are improving all the time thanks to early detection and improved treatment. B4BC recommend that girls self-examine every month around the same time to reinforce the habit and to get to know their bodies.
Sadly Monica passed away three months before the inaugural B4BC snowboard and music event, but her legacy clearly lives on, and it’s good to know that something this dark can bring such light.
“She was a wonderful person with a beautiful smile and I’m sure she’d be proud of us for what we’ve achieved with B4BC,” says Tina.
For health advice and more info, head to the B4BC website.