At SoCozy, we’re always inspired by great people and organizations that empower others with knowledge. That’s why, as part of Breast Health Awareness Month, we reached out to Mary Ann Wasil, the founder, president, and CEO of The Get in Touch Foundation to share with our readers what it means to “get in touch” for breast health.
Mary Ann with her daughters – left to right, Mary, Mary Ann and Betsy
Photo credit: Lisa DeTullio Russell
Before we get into the details of your amazing non-profit Get in Touch Foundation, tell us about you – where are you from?
I’m a New England girl – born and raised in Connecticut, and have always lived in a shoreline community, toes in the sand, saltwater in my blood, but I’m grateful to have always been a hop-skip-and-a-jump from New York City, my favorite city in the world!
Why did you decide to share your personal story and be an advocate for Breast Cancer Awareness?
Honestly, the first thing I said to my doctor when he told me I had breast cancer was, “Okay, what do I have to do? Just tell me what I have to do because I’m going to do this with faith and grace and style, and I’m going to show other women that they can do it, too.”
How did you come up with the idea for the Get in Touch Foundation?
I was drinking strong black coffee and eating warm sugary donuts at Krispy Kreme with my friend Susan Patrick when we talked about the fact that between us we had five daughters who had a family history of breast cancer. (Her mom is a breast cancer survivor.)
We wondered out loud what we could do to make sure our girls had all the information they needed to be as healthy and smart and cool as their moms. (Actually, we told them we could help with healthy and smart, but when it came to cool, they were on their own!)
We put our dreams on paper and made a “Wish List” that quickly evolved into a mission statement that has become a living document for The Get In Touch Foundation.
Why did you come up with the name “Get in Touch”? Is there a specific message you want to convey?
We came up with the idea for the name in that first conversation we had at Krispy Kreme when talked about what we wanted our daughters to be able to do when it came to their bodies. We wanted them to “get in touch” with their bodies, with information, and each other, in our crusade against breast cancer.
It’s a simple message, really, “Get In Touch.”
We all know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, what is the Get in Touch Foundation doing to spread awareness?
Well, let me start by saying that we actually refer to October as Breast HEALTH Awareness Month!
The Get In Touch Foundation is a breast HEALTH nonprofit organization and our program is a breast HEALTH initiative.
We want girls to know what their normal, HEALTHY breast tissue feels like.
We like to say that we want girls to know their bodies better than their mothers did, and better than their grandmothers would ever approve of!
If possible, we think girls should learn about breast HEALTH before they learn about breast cancer.
The third Friday of October is International “GIT Your Pink On!” Day, which means that we encourage schools that have signed up for our free program, as well as businesses interested in supporting our mission, to host a “pink dress-down-day” and ask students, staff, employees and customers to wear pink and donate one dollar to Get In Touch!
The Daisy Wheels that we send FREE to schools all over the globe cost us about $2.00 apiece to produce and deliver. We have given over 500,000 Daisy Wheels to girls all over the world, so, as you can see, our mission is not an inexpensive one.
Every single donation matters, no matter the size.
If you could give only one piece of advice to moms about breast health awareness, what would it be?
As a mother of three who was first diagnosed when my children were turning 10, 12 and 13 years of age, I would say that my most important advice to other moms would be to do EVERYTHING you can to “get in touch” with your body.
We all know the direction we get whenever we fly on an airplane – in case of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on before you turn to help others.
You have to make sure you are strong enough before you can help anyone else – even your children, and even when you’re not on an airplane.
Women tend to put themselves last – after their kids, their spouse, their parents, their family, their friends, their workplace, their pets – you get the picture, LAST!
But when we put ourselves FIRST in terms of our health, that’s how we can make sure we’re doing everything we can to be there for the people in our lives that need us most.
So, make sure you do your BSE – it’s free, easy, non-invasive – and it gives you your own personal baseline for normal.
If you see or feel something that isn’t normal for you – CALL YOUR DOCTOR.
Please, please, PLEASE don’t wait to make that call.
And always – ALWAYS – listen to your instinct. Don’t let anyone tell you not to worry, that you’re too young to get breast cancer, that you have no family history of breast cancer, that they’re “sure you’re just fine.”
All of that happened to me when I found the lump on my breast at the age of 39, but my instinct to want to know more is what ultimately saved my life.
What tips or advice do you have for other women hoping to start a business or any other sort of organization?
Oh, this is a great question, one I get asked quite often, something I’m sure SoCozy Founder Cozy Friedman gets asked all the time, as well!
My advice is to surround yourself with the smartest people you know.
You must be able to identify your own weaknesses and bring people on board who are strong where you are weak. Don’t try to do everything yourself.
My board of directors is a perfect example of professional excellence – they are marketing, financial, legal, development, and human resource geniuses who offer The Get In Touch Foundation their expertise on a daily basis.
Not one of us knows everything, but together, as a team, there isn’t anything we can’t do!
We’re a team, and as that corny – but true – saying goes, “There is no “I” in TEAM!”