KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Connect to Conquer, a new initiative to support people diagnosed with breast cancer, is bringing together two powerhouse breast cancer nonprofits — Breast Connect and Courage to Conquer Cancer.
Each group's goal has always been to help women battling breast cancer. Now, they are able to help even more patients through new funding.
For Nina Reineri and Kristi Roberson-James, breast cancer is a cause close to their hearts. Reineri is a survivor herself and Roberson-James has "a lot of cancer in her family," as she says.
"I think the Connect to Conquer initiative is a great answer to both of our experiences," Reineri said.
"We're there every step of the way to help them really in any way they need," Reineri said.
Roberson-James created Courage to Conquer Cancer with the goal of helping breast cancer patients fight more comfortably.
"We decided that there needed to be better post-surgical products on the market, to help them with during management," Roberson-James said. "That's really how we got started, as well as we do breast health education and breast cancer education and advocacy in the community."
The two organizations merged in 2020 to create a powerful initiative, Connect to Conquer. By bringing the organizations together, officials said they can match each others' talents to help even more people than they could on their own.
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Since then, they've given out dozens of mastectomy kits filled with "Recovery Tees" which help manage the post-op drain tubes, Axilla pillows, other comfort care items, education materials, free flowers from Random Acts of Flowers and support.
"It's something that, when they're going through a mastectomy is very scary and nobody knows what to bring, and we've sort of done the work for them by researching what can work for you when you have surgery," Reineri said.
Now they are able to help even more women in a 16 country region in East Tennessee. It's all thanks to a new grant from the Trinity Health Foundation.
"We have a lot of work cut out for us, but I think we are ready for it and we're ready to see what happens because maybe this is just the beginning of something very big," Reineri said.
Their goal is to be able to help 50 percent of women in the region and reach out to more diverse populations.
"Those things really make it all worth our time or energy and effort to be able to help those women to help them recover a little more comfortably, which was really what our goal was," Roberson-James said.
It's a need that's only grown since Susan G. Komen dissolved in East Tennessee.
"This is probably maybe just the first step just to be able to help more patients, and hopefully their organizations can continue to merge and partner to help more breast cancer patients," Roberson-James said.
There's a need for more sponsorships, though. The kits get pricey and they need all the help they can get to support the most amount of people.
If you need a kit or want to support, head to connect2conquer.org.