Annual concert provides free music and mammograms

Girls and Guitars event at the Visalia Fox Theatre fundraises for under- and uninsured women to get mammograms that may identify early stages of breast cancer

By Stephanie Barraza
Special to the Sun-Gazette

VISALIA – It is estimated that 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

Fortunately, one of the best ways to prevent breast cancer is through early detection via mammography. Yet, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Women’s Health focusing on out-of-pocket expenditures for the screening, one of the main barriers that women face in getting one is the affordability. For those who are uninsured, that cost could be in the neighborhood of $170.

With this in mind, local groups around Tulare County have created a joint community effort in making sure South Valley women who are underinsured or uninsured have free access to mammograms. That effort has led to the creation of the annual Girls and Guitars fundraiser concert held at the Visalia Fox Theater.

“About four years ago, we realized that we could do more to raise breast cancer awareness in October and immediately we decided that what we normally do, which is putting on shows, could really apply well to this cause,” Rick McNeil, program director at 106.7 KJUG Country.

Ashley McBryde sings with her guitarist during the Girls and Guitars fundraiser on Monday Oct. 15. Photo by Tom Kreger.

Ashley McBryde sings with her guitarist during the Girls and Guitars fundraiser on Monday Oct. 15. Photo by Tom Kreger.

Presented by Ed Dena’s Auto Center and the California-based radio station, the fourth annual event has helped raise money through donations at the concert and benefits the Kaweah Delta Healthcare Foundation through the Lost Girls Mammogram Fund.

“[The fund] was established by the Lost Girls Motorcycle Club and it was to assist local women who could not afford mammograms and breast cancer costs,” said Deborah Volosin, Senior Foundation Coordinator at Kaweah Delta Hospital Foundation. “They reached out to us and asked if we wanted to be part of the fundraiser as well, so they made us the beneficiary of this event since 2016, which is when we officially partnered with KJUG.”

According to Volosin, all the proceeds of the event have been used towards mammograms, biopsies, compression garments and camisoles for mastectomy patients. In their 2016 – 2017 concert, a total of $13,500 was raised for the fund, which helped over 300 local women gain access to free breast cancer screenings.

“Every dollar raised goes directly to the cause,” said Volosin. “We don’t take any out for overhead costs.

Held on a nippy Monday evening, the concert featured all-women headlining acts, which included up-and-coming country singers Danielle Bradbury, Ashley McBryde and Tenille Arts, as well as Visalia-based country duo Terra Bella.

“The way it works is that we give away free tickets and we pass around a pink container for a completely optional donation,” said McNeil. “One of the other ways we raise funds is doing a live auction for autographed guitars. This year we have one from Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood.”

Danielle Bradberry stretches her vocals on stage. Photo by Tom Kreger.

Danielle Bradberry stretches her vocals on stage. Photo by Tom Kreger.

McNeil says the concert brings between 800 to 1,200 people every year and attributes the success of the concert to how it’s structured.

“The only thing that changes up every year is that we have autographed guitars from different people. Other than that, we always follow the same format because we found out it works really well for us,” he said.

While October may be a month of breast cancer awareness, affording preventative measures is a different story, and with this fundraiser, the groups involved have focused on providing access particularly to women under 40 where the insurance coverage is almost non-existent for the lifesaving screening.

“The goal is always the same, which is to raise awareness about this mammogram program that is available in the South Valley,” said McNiel. “Our biggest goal is to every year get in front of everybody and remind them that self-care and early detection of breast cancer is very important.”

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