Seeing Red? 'Think Pink' Efforts Don't Always Benefit Breast Cancer Awareness, Some Say

A wave of pink is flooding stores everywhere, as retailers participate in Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For the savvy shopper, it's an opportunity to donate to a good cause while snagging unique, pink-hued items.

There's no shortage of items locally.

To name a few:

  • Lake Erie Harley Davidson in Avon is stepping up its efforts this year. Its "H-D Pink Label Collection" is 15 percent through October with a portion of the proceeds from every Pink Label Collection going to support breast cancer organizations.
  • Caribou Coffee, with stores in Westlake and Avon, will donate 10 percent of all Amy's Blend sales to CancerCare through Wednesday, Nov. 7. Amy's Blend collection – which includes coffee, tea, and merchandise – is in stores and online, CancerCare provides free services for those affected by breast cancer in Caribou communities. Additionally, Caribou will donate $1 for every new 'like' on its Facebook page through Nov. 7, which features a dedicated tab where fans can learn more about Amy and access valuable CancerCare resources. 
  • St. John's Medical Center is hosting a breast cancer survivor's meeting on Monday, Oct. 15 at 5:30 p.m. The two-hour meeting, held at 29160 Center Ridge Rd. in Westlake (the St. John Medical Center Community Outreach Center, is free.  
  • with a location in Avon, will donate a portion of each Pink Ribbon bagel to Cancer Survivorship services at the Cleveland Clinic. The city that purchases the most Pink Ribbon Bagels in October will receive an additional $10,000 to donate.

But before you plunk down your green for some pink, the nonprofits behind Breast Cancer Awareness Month want you to check the label.

Jenna Glazer, director of development for Young Survival Coalition (YSC), a global organization dedicated to helping young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, said that buyers should be on the lookout for a label or tag that tells where the money from the purchase goes.

"If you walk into Bed Bath & Beyond and see something with a pink ribbon and no information about where the money is going, chances are it doesn't benefit the cause," she said.

Glazer said the best way for consumers to ensure that pink products are legit is to visit the non-profit's website for a list of its partners. YSC, which is based in New York City, lists Oakley, Nutra Nail, Liv/giant bikes, Ford and Urban Outfitters as some of its partners.

The amount of money donated to the nonprofit is also key, Glazer said. With YSC's partnership with Oakley, for instance, $20 from each pair of sunglasses goes right to the nonprofit, which offers resources, connections and outreach to young women with breast cancer. 

And for a group like YSC, which is on the smaller end of the spectrum of breast cancer awareness groups such as Susan G. Komen For the Cure, the check it receives is just part of the benefit. Each time YSC partners with a company, Glazer said, "It raises the profile of nonprofit and gets the word out to the people who need us."

Here are a few pink products available online that breast cancer nonprofits are putting their names behind:

  • The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) has partnered with Barnes & Noble, which is offering a pink leather Nook cover with a stitched ribbon for about $35, with $5 going to the foundation.
  • Susan G. Komen for the Cure sells its own official merchandise on its website. It has pink leather business card holders for $15 each, as well as candles, coasters, neckties and car accessories.
  • Hard Rock will celebrate its thirteenth season of Pinktober with a variety of merchandise, including a pink honeycomb robe for $80. 75 percent of the profits from each item sold goes to the Caron Keating Foundation.

Some retailers don't enter contracts with nonprofits but still donate a portion of their proceeds. Team Cheer, a website that offers gear for cheerleaders, is donating 5 percent of its pink profits to BCRF. From socks to bows to briefs, the company's Cheer for a Cure collection includes products from $5 to about $25. You won't see it advertised on the BCRF website, but according to foundation staff, Team Cheer has made donations for the past two years.

If you think a pink product is suspicious or you are wondering about the relationship between the company and the cause, give the non-profit a call. Representatives are usually happy to verify whether a company is really giving.

"I've actually gotten Google alerts and seen people say they are partnering with us and they aren't," Glazer said, adding that she follows up on those alerts and asks for a check from the retailer that made the claim. Sometimes, she said, retailers were unaware that they needed a contract with YSC and will send along the check happily.

But in some cases, she said, "I never hear back from them."

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