When bras are dangling in a florist shop window, people are bound to look twice and wonder what’s up. When the undergarments are covered with coins, flowers, gems and maps, people stop in their tracks.
That’s why The Bud Connection, an Ellsworth floral shop, is holding a bra-decorating contest to raise awareness and money to support those affected by cancer.
“It’s mostly been a contest on a zero budget and lots of good will,” The Bud Connection owner, Barbara Courchesne, said Tuesday. “We encourage people to participate in something that’ll make a difference.”
It costs $5 to submit a bra, with entries being accepted through Nov. 5. Voting for the best bra will run from Oct. 25-Nov. 5 and the winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to the floral shop.
“It’s funny. I walk into the bank and they say, ‘Hey, did you get any bras today?’ It’s light-hearted and fun, but it’s also serious,” said Courchesne, 42.
Courchesne is a melanoma survivor of four years. She wanted to fundraise for a local organization, so she chose the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center in Ellsworth.
“Part of the reason I picked them is that they not only deal with breast cancer, but all kinds of cancer,” she said. “It’s nice to know it’s there if I really wanted resources and information.”
The center supports residents of Hancock and Washington counties through free support groups, informative lectures, a cancer resource library, exercise programs, transportation and financial assistance.
“I called to ask if we could fundraise for them and said we’d probably only make a couple hundred bucks, and they said, ‘Barb, that’s a lot for us,’” said Courchesne.
The nonprofit center organizes fundraisers such as a walks and bike rides for life.
“I’m honored. It’s pretty nice when all you have to do is accept a check from somebody and talk to a newspaper or radio station,” said Michael Reisman, Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center director. “Barbara and The Bud Connection are doing all the work.”
Each of the 21 bras submitted so far has been assigned a title.
Two tellers from the Bangor Savings Bank walked into the shop Monday with two bras, one covered in coins and the other a fan of fake bills arranged in two fluttering circles. They’re appropriately named “A Penny Your Thoughts” and “Funny Money,” they said laughing.
Participants can decorate a bra or make their own bra — and it doesn’t have to have realistic proportions, dimensions or materials.
A 2-foot-by-2-foot wooden structure supporting a pink and white mosaic bra titled “Have You Felt These” was donated by Coastal Interiors of Ellsworth. The bra is a reminder to women to perform regular self breast exams and get regular breast exams and mammograms.
Paula Bartley crocheted her pink-and-white bra “Simply Me,” which displays her pride to be a cancer survivor.
The undergarment masterpiece doesn’t necessarily have to be a bra, Courchesne explained.
The floral shop’s head of sales, Ernie Beal, submitted boxer shorts decorated with ribbons colored to represent different cancers. Each ribbon has a name of a person he knows who has been affected by cancer.
Surrounded by bras, the black boxers stand out in the window display.
“I was trying to think of a way to get a guy to do it, as well,” said Beal, 31, of Ellsworth. “So many different people in my life have been affected by cancer. I could have put more ribbons on there.”
The ribbons represent his grandfather, grandmother, friend, mother-in-law and boss.
The shop’s head designer, Mary Greenlaw, 59, of Trenton, titled her black bra “Flower Power” and decorated it with pink flowers in dedication to her grandmother who fought breast cancer for 30 years and was cancer free when she died at the age of 96.
“I’m also a 20-year survivor of breast cancer, so I think everything to help with the cause is good,” Greenlaw said.
Courchesne watches people walking by the window.
“Some bras make them laugh, some don’t,” she said. “You can imagine people going to lunch and talking about it.”
On Monday morning, she heard on the news that nationwide charitable contributions were down 11 percent last year.
“Maybe someone won’t bring in a bra but heard about it and will now donate on their own,” she said.
She said she hopes that most of the money will be raised through voting, which costs $1 per vote. People can vote multiple times if they are willing to donate more.
The fundraiser already is going better than Courchesne expected, and it may become an annual event.
Near the end of the contest, she plans to create her second bra — a large garment constructed of carnations, roses and other flowers — as a way to display the expertise at her shop and wrap up the contest.
The initial bra she designed to kick off the contest and start the window display is black and adorned with small pink flowers.
“I’d like to make a few hundred [dollars],” she said. “The more we raise just talks to the power of people talking to people and getting the word out there.”
Since The Bud Connection opened four years ago, it has accepted used vases to raise money for the Maine Coast Memorial Hospital Mammography Scholarship Fund.
The shop is located at 89 Main St. in Ellsworth and is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 667-9595. To learn about the Beth C. Wright Cancer Resource Center, visit www.bethwrightcancer.org or call 664-0339.