Profile: Beverly Canin: Understanding the Importance of Advocacy

by Sarah Harding

Beverly Canin became a breast cancer advocate just after her first breast cancer diagnosis in late 2000. She became aware of the importance of advocacy because “so much conflicting information fueled by many different agendas makes it very difficult for a person to make sense of it all,” she said. “We need advocates to sift through the huge amount of information, but, more importantly, we need advocates to sift through the misinformation.”

Beverly was first introduced to Breast Cancer Action in 2002 at the annual Era of Hope meeting. BCA’s executive director Barbara Brenner and Beverly met and quickly united over their shared concerns about the environmental links to breast cancer and their desire to learn where all the money raised in the name of breast cancer was going. Beverly had recently completed an Avon 3-Day Walk and felt angry because she felt that the company’s advertisements were misleading. Avon had asserted that all the money raised would benefit breast cancer research and services for underserved women, which was the hook that drew Beverly to participate in the walk. She later learned, when inquiring about applying for a grant, that the “services for underserved women” were limited to “early detection” programs. The limited scope of Avon’s program did not serve the population most meaningful to her—breast cancer patients.

Motivated to take action, Beverly joined a coalition led by BCA, the Follow the Money Alliance, which pushed for accountability in breast cancer. The coalition worked with socially responsible investment firms around Avon shareholder activism to demand transparency in fundraising and guide research into the environmental links to cancer. Beverly felt that the group opened an important dialogue between the Avon Foundation and breast cancer advocates, prompting the foundation to take steps toward transparency about its fundraising and considering advocates’ concerns about the kinds of research it funded. (BCA’s Think Before You Pink campaign has addressed these issues over the years.)

As the board president of Breast Cancer Options—a New York–based patient-driven grassroots support, education, and advocacy organization—Beverly continues to work on environmental links to breast cancer. She is very interested in BCA’s work on decreasing involuntary exposures to environmental toxins that put people at risk for breast cancer. She also helped to organize a Think Before You Pink rally in New York City to educate the public about pink ribbon marketers.

Beverly’s diverse activism with BCA also comes in the form of financial support as a member of the organization’s Susan Stone Circle of monthly donors. She says she was inspired to join the Circle because it guarantees that, over time, she gives a meaningful amount. By donating this way, she doesn’t have to think about it, she says and she knows it’s a steady commitment to working toward eliminating the causes of breast cancer.

BCA’s clear policy about corporate donations gives the organization a level of independence that is difficult to achieve, Beverly says. BCA garners respect and admiration, she adds, because “it stands up for people instead of business.”

To join the Susan Stone Circle of monthly donors or make a year-end investment, please use the enclosed envelope, or contact individual gifts officer Sarah Harding at 415/243-9301, ext. 17,

For more ways to get involved in BCA activism, contact program manager Brenda Salgado at 415/243-9301, ext. 11, or

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