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Embrace Your Sisters aims to fill financial gaps for those with breast cancer

Embrace Your Sisters aims to fill financial gaps for those with breast cancer

When Chrisann Philipson was diagnosed with breast cancer she was fortunate that she had health insurance to rely on. But she learned quickly that health insurance only goes so far; she was forced to choose a la carte the treatment options she wanted. 


“Her girlfriends said if you have insurance, if you are going through this and picking treatment a la carte, there must be plenty of other women that are in the same situation,” said Krista Jackson. “So they decided to come together and form the nonprofit Embrace Your Sisters.” 

Jackson serves as second vice president of the 100-percent volunteer-run organization that is based in Canandaigua. She joined five years ago and is herself a breast cancer survivor. 

“I was diagnosed at 41 and I had great support, financial support, solid family support,” Jackson recalled, adding that she has modeled in EYS’ annual fundraising event, Tea at Two fashion show. “Once that happened and I became involved it was the best way to pay it forward to other people because there are so many people who are less fortunate.” 

The nonprofit’s mission is to provide short-term emergency financial support for women and men with breast cancer. It fills a unique niche in breast cancer services by providing support to residents within 13 counties in Upstate New York, including Monroe, Livingston, Ontario and Wayne counties in the Rochester metropolitan area. 

Since its 2006 inception, EYS has helped hundreds of people with nearly $500,000 in emergency support. EYS has nine board members that run the organization with volunteers that help with each of the fundraising events. 

Assistance from EYS can ease the financial burden of unpaid bills and helps those living with breast cancer focus on their health and families. And while Philipson benefited from the generosity of her friends and family as they were starting the organization, she eventually lost her battle with breast cancer in 2016. 

A grant from EYS can help with mounting co-pays and medical expenses. The emergency funding also can help with rent and mortgage payments, utilities and other necessary expenses in order to improve the quality of life and maintain a stable environment during the battle with cancer. EYS also can provide longer-term help with practical, emotional health and other vital services. 

Because the nonprofit receives no government funding, it relies heavily on its two fundraisers, as well as donations. In addition to the fashion show, which typically is held in May each year, EYS has an annual walk called Positively Pink in Pittsford Walk. The event occurred virtually this year during the last week of September and into early October. 

“Pivoting very quickly from something in person to virtual doesn’t happen with a snap of the fingers,” Jackson said of the decision to go virtual with the two events. “The Positively Pink in Pittsford Walk generally, a lot of the support we get is from local athletic groups, so people from colleges and a lot of the local high schools.” 

The fashion show was pushed to July this year and also was held as a virtual event, Jackson said. 

“We still raised funds, but we’re down about 75 percent from what we would normally gross with that fashion show in a live format,” she added. “So, face-to-face obviously works for us.” 

Individuals with breast cancer who need assistance can fill out an application on the group’s website. The turnaround time is roughly 30 days, Jackson said. 

“COVID has been another strain right now with people getting a diagnosis and not being able to work because they’re going through chemotherapy and their oncologist doesn’t want them to work because of COVID,” she explained.  

What Jackson was most attracted to when she joined EYS was that it was a grassroots, volunteer-run organization. 

“And when I saw what this group of women came together and did as far as the amount of money that they raised and the people that they were helping, it truly made a difference,” she said. “I strongly believe that we’re doing good, meaningful work.” 

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