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Shades of Pink Foundation hosts walk at the Detroit Zoo

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Three years ago, Sarah Ripley had a cancerous lump in her breast but her mind was elsewhere, worrying about falling behind on her mortgage.

Ripley, 36 when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer , had good health insurance but lost half her income when chemotherapy sidelined her from her job at an early education center.

“It was challenging for me to realize I am going to need some help,” Ripley said.

With direction from a medical social worker, Ripley found the Shades of Pink Foundation, a public charity based in Metro Detroit that provides financial assistance to women experiencing financial distress after a breast cancer diagnosis.

The foundation awards grants that help with daily living expenses — mortgage and rent payments, transportation costs, day care expenses, bills and groceries — not medical bills.

After some fairly simple paperwork, Ripley learned she would receive $2,000 which covered two months of mortgage, car and some utility payments. “It was a huge load off to have two months of my mortgage paid,” she said. “It really is a life saver.”

The Shades of Pink Foundation is marking its 10th anniversary this year and holding its annual fundraising event this Saturday, A Walk at the Zoo, at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak.

Last year, the walk raised $200,000. It’s the organization’s biggest fundraiser with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to breast cancer patients and their families.

This year, Michigan’s first lady Sue Snyder, an 11-year breast cancer survivor will serve as the event’s honorary chair.

“Cancer is much more than just fighting for your health, a diagnosis starts an emotionally challenging journey for so many,” Snyder said. “The last thing families should have to worry about is how to pay medical bills, afford daycare and put food on the table.”

The organization was founded in 2005 by Suzanne Krueger and Dr. Pamela R. Benitez, a breast surgeon at Royal Oak’s William Beaumont Hospital.

In 2014, the foundation provided $160,000 in financial assistance to more than 100 women in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Genesee counties. The grants max out at $2,000 a person and are awarded directly to creditors, not patients.

Benitez said a breast cancer diagnosis can pose numerous challenges.

“This seems to take the edge off so they can focus on their healing, their recovery, their journey,” Benitez said.

Today, Ripley is healthy. She is walking on Saturday with 13 friends and family members. Her team name is “Chemosabes.”

“Now that I am healthy the last two years, I want to give back to the foundation that helped me,” Ripley of Redford said.

For information, go to shadesofpinkfoundation.org.