First Bra celebrates one year of providing breast cancer survivors with a simple gift: a free bra.
During her 11 years as owner of lingerie shop Clair de Lune in Kansas City and St. Louis, Terry Levine has worked with many breast cancer survivors.
“In most instances, she came into the store without good direction about the sort of bra she needed after surgery and recovery,” Levine says. “And in so many cases she was still recovering emotionally, even if she had completed and physically recovered from her re-construction.
“For many women, buying a bra is a challenging moment. But throw in getting used to a new body, then the experience can become even more daunting.”
Levine wanted to make the experience of finding the “first bra” a little less stressful for the women she was meeting, and her nonprofit, First Bra, was born.
Breast cancer survivors may register online at firstbra.org or receive a request form through one of First Bra’s hospital partners, which include St. Luke’s East, KU Cancer Center, Menorah Medical Center or Mercy Health Centers in St. Louis. In return, she receives a voucher that never expires providing her with a free bra.
“Every woman’s breast cancer journey is different,” Levine explains. “There is no pre-determined window when she should be fitted for her new bra. For some it’s a few weeks after her surgery or treatment; for others it could be years. We can’t pre-judge, so we made it that First Bra had no expiration.”
After a one-year test program in her stores, Levine and her husband and business partner, Clair Keizer, along with a board of directors, officially launched the First Bra Foundation in September 2014. First Bra has since connected with more than 300 women, mostly from the Kansas City area, but also from around the world.
The response is an encouraging sign that the program could develop to have a national presence. Currently, those requesting bras from are out of town are encouraged to hold on to their vouchers as First Bra develops more retail partners around the country.
In the meantime, First Bra will continue to reach out to breast cancer survivors locally. Levine and Keizer hope to see First Bra expand its partnerships among hospitals and the medical community and generate support through local donations.
First Bra will be participating in numerous activities related to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, including the annual Pink Party at Menorah Medical Center on Tuesday, October 6 from 4-6 p.m.