The sixth annual Bike for Boobs ride — which begins at The Wine Pub, 2907 Shelter Island Drive in Point Loma — includes a casual ride around Shelter Island and a new, 20-mile ride adding in routes around Harbor Island and Fiesta Island, in addition to Shelter Island. This year, the event will benefit Shades of Pink Foundation California, an Encinitas-based nonprofit that helps women who are being treated for breast cancer and are struggling financially as a result of their disease.
Clients are identified by a partnered hospital or cancer center as having struggles with finances due to their treatments, said Vembra Holnagel, the foundation’s president. The organization mostly helps clients with housing expenses but also provides assistance for car payments, insurance and other basic living expenses, Holnagel said.
In the past, Bike for Boobs benefited a San Francisco-based charity, but this year, Bike for Boobs wanted to help a more local organization, explained Sandy Hanshaw, owner of The Wine Pub and Coffee Hub & Café and co-founder of the event. She and her husband, Andy Hanshaw, who leads the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, started the event in 2013 following Sandy Hanshaw’s own battle with breast cancer.
Sandy Hanshaw said Shades of Pink Foundation California's mission resonated with her.
"Having gone through treatment with a very large and caring network of people around me, I'm one of the lucky ones,” she said. “A lot of people aren't so lucky to have that group of people and financial support. ... Shades of Pink helps people financially who are going through treatment and might not have the means or the network to tap into. That's so important because there are people I've mentored that haven't made it because they didn't have the benefit of the financial support or the network of people around them."
Holnagel said her organization was founded in 2013 after her daughter and a friend saw Shades of Pink's Michigan chapter and wanted to start their own in California.
She noted that many of the women were low-income before their treatment and had to stop working when they were diagnosed, making it even harder to pay their bills.
"It's a double-edged sword," she said. "We're grateful to help them but it's so devastating to see the financial problems these women have as a result of this disease."
Holnagel said partnering with Bike for Boobs seemed like a natural fit.
"Sandy had sort of a unique perspective on what we were trying to do because she's a survivor herself," she said. "She understands the women we're serving."
The five-year-old nonprofit has largely been supported by large donations from organizations, smaller contributions from supporters and events such as bingo and a Wear Pink party, Holnagel said.
The group had been wanting to host a bike ride raising awareness and funds for their program but lacked the resources and manpower, she said, noting the organization is supported by a board of six female volunteers.
"Partnering with someone who already had this event going on just seemed like a really nice fit,” Holnagel said. “We'll really be benefitted by this in the future."
Bike for Boobs, which begins with the ride at about 3 p.m., will also include an after-party with live music, raffles, silent auctions, food and drinks.
Sandy Hanshaw said they are looking for more participants and are hoping to exceed 100 riders this year. She said she also hopes more women battling breast cancer will join the ride to create bonds, friendships and support.
"I think all of us have to stick together to get through it," she said.