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Pleasant Ridge

January 30, 2013

Ridge business raising funds for breast cancer foundation

By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer

PLEASANT RIDGE — Susan Thomas has made a career out of helping women with breast cancer, and she is always finding new ways to lend a hand.

Her latest endeavor is a series of in-store fundraisers at her Pleasant Ridge-based business — Susan’s Special Needs, located at 24052 Woodward Ave. — to raise money for patients who are struggling financially. Each of these “pop-up events,” as Thomas calls them, will benefit the Shades of Pink Foundation, which provides temporary financial assistance for non-medical expenses such as food, transportation, child care, insurance payments and other daily essentials to local breast cancer patients during their period of treatment and recovery.

“The purpose of doing these events is to look beyond us and our business, to take the focus off of Susan’s Special Needs and move it onto other people’s needs,” Thomas explained. “It’s a great opportunity for us to provide our customers with some different products than what we offer here, while raising awareness for a great cause.”

A registered oncology nurse and breast cancer survivor, Thomas was diagnosed with the disease in June 1992 and elected to undergo a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy. While receiving treatment, she lost her hair and was disappointed to discover how few fashion and comfort products were available for women like her.

This is how Susan’s Special Needs was born. Thomas’ business carries a wide range of products for breast cancer patients, including custom wigs, turbans and hats; bras and lingerie to fit many different breast forms; swimsuits with mastectomy pockets; compression sleeves and gloves; a line of items to accommodate women experiencing menopause; pajamas, tank tops and lounging wear for women going through hot flashes; and a line of skin care products designed to meet the needs of those enduring radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

According to Thomas’ husband, Dave Thomas, who also works at the store, “Going through breast cancer treatment can be very difficult psychologically for a lot of women, and there are not many places for them to go to find products like these. It’s not all about the things they buy here, though. They also have the opportunity to talk to people who have gone through the exact same thing.”

The first pop-up event at Susan Special’s Needs was held Jan. 24 and featured a display from MC Pulte Jewelry, with a portion of the day’s proceeds going to the Shades of Pink Foundation. Company founder Maryclare Pulte lost both of her parents to cancer a few years ago and soon started making and selling jewelry in honor of her late mother. Her Michigan-made rings, necklaces and bracelets are meant to provide women with more than just attractive jewelry — they are also symbols of spiritual empowerment for those who are experiencing hardship.

“The whole basis of my jewelry is to try to bring hope and faith to people in need,” Pulte said. “Wo-men like to feel connected to the things they’re going through, even the most difficult struggles, and that’s why all of my products carry an inspiring, positive message.”

Future pop-up events include showcases from Creative Designs Care — which offers handcrafted cancer awareness apparel, jewelry and gift items — from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 6 and J. McLaughlin Apparel and Accessories from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 20. At each event, a portion of the sales will be donated to the Shades of Pink Foundation.

The foundation has seen exponential growth since it was founded in 2005 by Dr. Pamela Benitez from Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital — the same surgeon who performed Thomas’ mastectomy 20 years ago — her friend Suzanne Krueger, and a handful of other like-minded friends and colleagues.

According to Jan Wade, a member of the Shades of Pink Foundation Board of Directors, the group went from donating just $5,000 during its first year to donating $150,000 in 2012 to more than 100 women in need in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties. In addition, the foundation’s annual fundraising walk at the Detroit Zoo skyrocketed from 200 participants in its first year to 1,800 participants in 2012. This year’s event will be held at the zoo April 27.

Wade was grateful to Susan’s Special Needs for its contributions to Shades of Pink.

“It’s so critical that we have people like Susan who are donating to our cause and getting our name out there,” she said. “Every dollar that people give to us goes directly to help a person in need. But the awareness is really just as important as the money — the more people who are aware of our foundation, the better.”

Thomas believes that the bond between Susan’s Special Needs and the Shades of Pink Foundation is “a natural connection” that continues her mission of helping women who are coping with the same struggle that she once was.

“I feel like a lot of people who come in here look at me and say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it, too,’” she said. “I think it gives them great reassurance to meet a survivor like me and know that they will make it through this.”

For more information on Susan’s Special Needs, call (248) 544-4287 or visit www.susansspecialneeds.com. For more information on the Shades of Pink Foundation, go to www.shadesof pinkfoundation.org or call (248) 318-6603.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jeremy Selweski at jSelweski@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5004.