I had the chance to talk to Shaney Jo Darden, founder and CEO of the nonprofit breast cancer foundation Keep a Breast, which just opened a new branch in the UK. I talked with Darden about the opening of this new branch, how she got involved in Warped Tour and music in general, and what drove her to found Keep a Breast.
What made you want to get involved with Warped Tour and alternative music in general?
The Warped Tour is a very special place – a home for punks and misfits. Kevin Lyman is the founder of the Vans Warped Tour and had read about Keep A Breast in a magazine. As this is a cause close to his heart after losing his mother to breast cancer, he invited us along to educate all the fans on breast cancer prevention. We have been out on the road every summer with our program The Keep A Breast Traveling Education Booth since 2001. Thanks to Kevin we have been able to educate thousands of teens every summer about breast cancer prevention. It’s important for us to educate teens in their own environment, in a place where they feel comfortable and can be themselves. The Warped Tour fosters this type of environment and hosts many charities every year.
Favorite tour moment?
On Warped Tour there are so many moments. Everyday you meet people who have been affected by breast cancer in some way. It’s always amazing for KAB to be there as an organization who can understand the personal stories of these people. Over the years, there have been many moments when we’ve helped young people process feelings and emotions from the loss of a loved one and we’ve also discussed the process of their own scare in finding a lump.
This particular tour story comes to you from one member of my touring team Kyle Craft (http://daily-silver-linings.tumblr.com). He has been touring for KAB for the last 5 years.
“One of my favorite things that happens to me on tour happened on the first day right off the bat! A kid came up to me to thank me for being at Warped Tour every year. The previous year he brought his mom into the booth to our “Check Yourself” section of the tent and because of the educational material, she was able to find a harmful lump and seek treatment. I seriously get goose bumps EVERY FREAKING TIME that someone tells me a story like this. It just really reassures you that all of your efforts are making a difference when you dedicate so much time and energy into a cause that you are passionate about. Air five!”
Have you always been interested in music?
I’ve always loved music. I’m a 70’s baby and I grew up in a house where my dad was always playing records. He actually took me to see Bob Dylan when I was only 10. I fell asleep because it was way after my bedtime, but I remember him, just him, sitting on an old wicker chair in the middle of the stage with soft lighting just strumming away. My dad also took me to see Johnny Cash for my 21st birthday, it was one of the last shows he ever played, June was there and she even sang a few songs.
What made you decide to use music as one of your channels to get the message of Keep A Breast out to the public?
Music is the ultimate form of community, and the ultimate bridge to young people. I have a background in the skateboard industry as a designer, and I knew that if I wanted to educate my peers about this scary topic (that no one wanted to talk about), I had to do it with something interesting. In the beginning that was art, and why I created the Keep A Breast Casts™. As we grew our Traveling Education Booth concept, I knew that if I took this booth to a heath fair I would not be able to reach teens. We go where our audience is, so that means you will sometimes find us at The Vans Warped Tour, surf contests, skate contests, or motocross events.
Tell me more about the decision to open a U.K. branch of Keep A Breast.
The UK is a natural place for us to grow. There is a need for information for young people on cancer prevention that I think we can help fill with our unique mission. In the past 4 years we have brought our traveling education booth to many UK festivals like Slam Dunk, Leeds, Hatfield, and The Warped Tour. The response has been really well so we decided to build our community in the UK. We are looking for partners, volunteers and support! Shout out! To everyone in the UK! Let us know if you want to get involved.
How’d you come up with the idea for “CheckYourSelfie”?
We believe that the best way to spark the attention of young people and spread the message of a monthly self-check is through social media. While selfies are an increasing activity, they are often shunned as “self indulgent” and “narcissistic.” Through the #CHECKYOURSELFIE campaign, KAB is asking people to put the selfie to good use — to find the time to be not “self indulgent,” but “self aware” when it comes to knowing your body and your breasts. We are asking people to post a selfie, placing three fingers to their breast, symbolizing their monthly commitment to self-check. It’s all about turning awareness into action by downloading our free self-check app! checkyourselfie.org.
I really admire your prevention approach, especially the focus on leading a healthy lifestyle. Have you always felt this was the way to approach prevention or was there a specific incident that made you think about prevention in that way?
I have always felt this way. When I started KAB in 2000, no one was talking about prevention. Young women are dying from this disease and every awareness campaign available at the time was about a pink ribbon and drug research, which really didn’t speak to me as a younger person. I felt there was a huge gap in the conversation surrounding breast cancer for young women so I set out to talk about prevention and early detection. Now things have changed and more people are talking about prevention and doing studies on the environmental links to cancer. There are scientific studies that prove yoga and meditation reduce your cancer risk. Major news channels and media conglomerates, and even giant healthcare providers are talking about prevention and wellness. This collective consciousness can only grow. Let’s all talk about prevention. Let’s all learn how to do our monthly self-check. Let’s all eat cleaner, move our bodies more, dance, and love as deeply as possible! Let’s all do this together, for each other.
Tell me more about the Non-Toxic Revolution campaign Keep A Breast offers.
We have a program called Non Toxic Revolution that is all about educating young people about the toxins that are in your everyday life that are linked to cancer. It’s a bit different look than KAB, all the design was done by Shepard Fairey and his agency Studio Number One. We have broken down something that is really complex and scary to bulleted, easily digestible information so you can be empowered to make simple changes in your life that will help reduce your risk of breast cancer. Only 10% of new cancer diagnoses is linked to family history, so we have to continue to ask ourselves why is this happening and direct more research funds to proving the link of carcinogens to cancer.
Name a song on your iPod that people would be surprised you have.
“Not Afraid” Eminem. I love this song. When I’m feeling like a need a little push forward, or I’m feeling overwhelmed and alone. The chorus is like my life story:
“I’m not afraid, To take a stand, Everybody, Come take my hand, We’ll walk this road together, through the storm, Whatever weather, cold or warm, Just letting you know that you’re not alone, Holler if you feel like you’ve been down the same road”. I was on Warped Tour with Keep A Breast the same year that Eminem was on tour. It was when Slim Shady was big, he used to call me Slim Shaney. Hahaha.
Anything else you want to add?
Even though [October is] breast cancer prevention month, this is a conversation that Keep A Breast has all year long. Download our app and set the automatic monthly reminder, and don’t forget to #checkyourselfie. Tell a friend.