Local 685 Women’s Committee Supports Breast Cancer Research & Empowers Local Women
Local 685 Women’s Committee, a UAW for all the Chrysler plants in Kokomo, has been in existence for a long time. About five years ago, however, international headquarters announced that they were going to start supporting breast cancer research. A big part of that support would involve participating in the annual walk in October that raises funds to battle the disease. But since the closest walk from their location was Indianapolis, it wasn’t very feasible to gather a large group of participants.
“We were working around the clock, and a lot of our women work on Saturdays so we decided to host our own walk in Kokomo and it just exploded,” says Tammy Mohr, a Chrysler employee for the past 26 years.
That very first year, the community came out in droves, and momentum hasn’t let up since. As a result, this UAW group has raised more money for breast cancer than any other in the United States.
The UAW Local 685 Women’s Committee is active in raising money for a number of important causes, including heart health, diabetes and March of Dimes.
“We’re all about supporting issues that affect women and children,” explains Mohr, who for 10 years was the Chair for the Go Red for Women in Kokomo. “The number one killer of women in the U.S. is heart disease so supporting the American Heart Association was important to us. And we had a couple of people in our plants who have had children with birth defects so we helped raise money for the March of Dimes.”
Sadly, breast cancer is prevalent as one out of 10 women is diagnosed with the disease.
“You never know when you get that mammogram if you’ll be the next one,” Mohr says. “But even if you’re not, everyone knows someone or is related to someone who has battled it.”
The UAW group scheduled the walk for Sunday afternoon, October 20, because it’s the one day of the week when all women employed at the Chrysler plants are not working. Registration is at 1 p.m. and the walk begins at 2 p.m.
“A Sunday walk is rare, but even those who don’t work at Chrysler like it,” says Mohr, the Event Chair. “Those who want to worship can still go to church, grab a bite to eat, and participate in the walk.”
The walk starts in Foster Park at the Senior Citizens Center on 721 West Superior Street.
“We do that because a lot of the women going through treatment can’t walk very far,” says Mohr, noting that there is a walking bridge that is part of the course. A few years back, they incorporated into the walk “Bras Across the Wildcat” in which women decorate bras and hang them over the bridge.
“I researched it and found out that Bras Across the Bridge is done in Boston, New York and all over,” Mohr says. “Since we have Wildcat Creek and our high school team is called the Wildcats, we thought we’d give the name a local flair to make it more about Kokomo.”
The walk is sponsored by a number of local businesses. The local radio station acts as emcee for the day. There will also be entertainment, a silent auction and cheerleaders who come out to cheer for the walkers. This year Lisa Rentschler, a member of UAW Local 685 Women’s Committee who is currently battling breast cancer, will be the guest speaker/survivor.
“She will give her testimonial and then go out to the starting line to kick off the walk,” Mohr says.
The UAW Local 685 Women’s Committee typically raises $25,000 annually for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, which is an impressive amount for a small community. The UAW group spearheads a number of events throughout the year to raise money for breast cancer research.
“We try to do all different kinds of things. For instance, this year we hosted a car show called ‘Cruise in for a Cure,’” Mohr says. “We also had a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Jackrabbits Game in July.”
At that game Rentschler threw out the first pitch in honor of the event.
On October 4, UAW Local 685 Women’s Committee is holding a fundraiser at the Country Palace called “Give Cancer the Boot.” Families are welcome from 6-9 p.m. and the night extends to midnight for adults. Located at 2011 North Market Street, the event will include a silent auction, signature drinks, Gambino Pizza, live music and line dancing. The Pink Heals fire truck will be on site for survivors to sign, and UAW ladies will be selling T-shirts and donating proceeds to Making Strides for Breast Cancer.
The UAW Local 685 Women’s Committee, which consists of roughly 175 women, never puts pressure on anyone to participate in these events because they recognize that everyone has a lot on their plates.
“We are flexible because with us being labor workers and labor women, we do a lot of physical labor. Some of us stand all day,” Mohr says. “We understand that we have a lot of stuff going on in our lives. We have kids. We have dinner. We have laundry and need to run children to ballgames and such. So, there is no pressure to go to things, but when we can, we’re there, 100%.”
Mohr maintains that one reason the committee is so popular is because it embraces the notion of women empowering women.
“We are all about women’s issues and women helping each other instead of tearing each other down,” Mohr says.
To learn more or to register for the October 20 walk, visit MakingStridesWalk.org/UAWIN.