Dancers strip for prostate awareness

Erotic fundraiser gets ballsy with cancer

Dancers for Cancer get ballsy in a series of fun magnets.

Dancers for Cancer get ballsy in a series of fun magnets.

Erotic fundraiser gets ballsy with cancer

Fighting cancer just got a little more rousing, thanks to the dancers at the Fox Showroom Pub and their controversial yet celebrated annual event coming up this weekend.

Dancers For Cancer will hit the stage Sunday, May 6, in an all-day community fundraiser from noon till 1 a.m., dedicated to improving the lives of people impacted by cancer. The event, now in its ninth year, has been a popular fundraiser with Victorians but, despite a lucrative turnout, the group hasn’t always had an easy time finding groups to accept the donations, due to how funds were raised. Past donations have gone to individuals when no cancer agency would come forward to collect the money. Last year, the largely under-funded Prostate Centre, a Vancouver Island cancer research group that offers support programs and services to men and their families, was thrilled to accept $1,200 from the dancers and will be on board again this year to help generate education and awareness.

“We understand some groups are concerned about their image and how they are receiving donations — our goal is to get them more money, not to cost them sponsors,” says Nicole Vezina, who has coordinated the Victoria event since its inception. “But it is frustrating, because dancers can get cancer too, and many people involved with the event have been impacted, have lost family members, or are even survivors themselves. They want to do what they can to help.”

Last year, the dancers raised more than $3,000, with nearly half going into the newly incorporated Rose Lemonade Hope Foundation, a financial aid scholarship fund for cancer survivors seeking assistance with non-medical expenses and post-secondary education. The foundation will be the beneficiary of this year’s fundraiser, along with the Prostate Centre.

“Individuals and families often lose those extras in life like movies, dinners out, lessons for the kids, vacations, new clothes,” says Vezina. “We want to help people and families impacted by cancer to embrace and enjoy their lives … it’s the little things that have to get cut that make life worth living.”

Past events have included a hot rod car show to help draw in men and audience members who may otherwise be uncomfortable talking about something as serious as cancer, says Vezina.

This year, however, the group hopes to up the educational tools along with creating a fun and attention-grabbing evening. In an effort to do just that, Vezina worked with models and a professional photographer to create sensational magnets that could be snagged at this year’s event (see graphic). Again, at the last minute, the cancer group sponsoring the magnets cancelled their production based on fears that the message was too ballsy, stating: “Our organization, while addressing a very private health matter, must walk a fine line with donor and pubic engagement.”

“The truth is, men don’t tend to pay attention to their health the way women do, and we want to get their attention any way we can,” says Vezina. “One of the Fox’s long-term regular customers just passed away from cancer a month ago, so there has been a lot of awareness and respect within the dancing community about men’s health. The way we talk about it might be more outrageous, but cancer affects exotic dancers and the men who come to see them just the same as those who don’t attend. It’s the great equalizer.”

Vezina, who is not a dancer, fell into her role with Dancers For Cancer after attending the first event in Vancouver when she lost a loved one from cancer. Over the last nine years, the event has raised nearly $40,000 in cities around B.C., and has become a fixture for both Vezina and her mother. This year’s fundraising goal is $10,000.

“My mom comes and works the door, and really looks forward to all the stories that people come up and tell us throughout the evening as they donate,” she says. “There are some women who benefitted from our foundation who have healed and have told us how thrilled they are to be able to give back again now … people need to be able to know they can make a real difference, and they can. And it can be fun.”

When it comes to that difference, Vezina says education has to be made accessible at a time when people are willing to listen — otherwise, the messages don’t get through. Messages, like those from the Prostate Centre that state an estimated 788 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 on Vancouver Island, and 114 will die from it.

“Being in health care, I see what this does to men and families and why it’s so crucial to get checked early,” Vezina says. “There are these cancers people die of basically because they are dying from embarrassment — they don’t want to talk about it. Yes, you can get cancers in private areas, but these don’t have to be private issues. These cancers have good treatment rates if they are caught early enough, but you can’t ignore them. Our men don’t need to die from this.” M

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