Would you eat food off a stranger’s plate at a restaurant? Or drive around town with a live chicken?Chances are, if you’re friends with Rhonda DeMello or Tori Torres, the answer is yes, and you would even pay for the privilege.For the past four years, the two Highland Creek women have talked many friends, coworkers and family members into carrying out unique or unusual tasks during their Ta-Ta Hunt. They created the adult scavenger hunt to raise money for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.Both DeMello, director of operations at Harris Teeter, and Torres, a personal counselor, have walked in the Charlotte leg of the eight-city series for the past five years, raising $25,500 to date. Fundraisers like the Ta-Ta Hunt help keep a somber subject like breast cancer light and fun.For $25, teams dress in pink – many also decorate their cars – and then scramble around town, checking off items on their lists to complete in a two-hour window. Last year, 75 people participated.Some years they’ve been asked to form a human pyramid outside the Chick-fil-A across from Concord Mills. Other years they’ve had to walk into the nearby lingerie shop and ask for a Hawaiian lei. Participants can earn bonus points for feats like getting themselves handcuffed to a police officer or working a fast food drive-thru.Many businesses in the area know about the fundraiser and play along.“When you tell them what it’s for, no one says no,” DeMello said.That’s probably because, by now, chances are everybody knows at least one person affected by breast cancer. According to the Avon Foundation for Women, a woman has a 1-in-8 chance of developing the disease in her lifetime. Every 3 minutes someone receives a new diagnosis of invasive breast cancer.Both DeMello and Torres lost their grandmothers to breast cancer decades ago.“It’s just one of those diseases that keeps hitting home,” Torres said. “It’s getting closer and closer every year for me.”For the thousands of others who participate in the 39-mile Avon Walks each year, inspiration flows freely during the two-day events.Walkers include survivors as well as family members and friends of survivors, and even those walking in memory of someone who died of the disease.Each year, DeMello and Torres look for the woman who walks with a sandwich board listing the names of people she knows who are affected by the disease. She offers encouragement to the walkers with blistered toes, and sometimes a dose of reality to the ones who complain a little too often.“It doesn’t hurt as much as chemo,” she tells them.Last year, the woman was honored for reaching the $1 million donation mark.“She shows that one person can make a difference,” DeMello said.Anyone who has been to a walk probably understands that fundraisers like the Ta-Ta Hunt fit right in.Much of what happens during the walks might be considered unusual: Men in pink tutus cheering participants on, or Harley Davidson bikers dancing in pink outfits in the middle of busy intersections and helping thousands cross the road.Torres would like to know the identity of the man who dons the black unitard, hot pink bra and cape each year and offers words of encouragement. “I want to say his name is Capt. Mammary Gland,” she said.Those who win the Ta-Ta Hunt receive no money or high-priced prize, but a simple plaque with a bra attached.“We have small, medium and large,” said Torres, to represent first, second and third places.But it’s a booby prize teams eagerly covet.“It’s just bragging rights,” said DeMello, who has been approached more than once with demands for recounts at the end of the contest. “We really have an amazing group of people who love and support us.”
Friday, Sep. 07, 2012
Friends raise money, compete for ‘booby prize’
Scavenger hunt helps support annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer
Want to help? Interested in helping the fight against breast cancer? Information about Rhonda DeMello and Tori Torres’ fundraisers is available on their website, www.loveandpinkribbons.com. To learn more about the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Charlotte, scheduled for Oct. 27-28, visit www.avonwalk.org/charlotte.
Lisa Thornton is a freelance writer for the Observer. Have a story idea for Lisa? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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