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Crunch time for calendar creator

2002 Breast of Canada educational effort lacked backing of charitable organization

The Guelph Mercury, Wednesday, January 9, 2002, p. A1
By KATHLEEN ELLIOTT

GUELPH - Sue Richards dug deep into her own pocket to finance a calendar aimed at breast health and teaching women the proper way to do a breast self-examination.

But unless she can sell $50,000 worth of the calendars before the end of the month, she may be forced to accept defeat.

The 43-year-old founder of Art Jam is still looking at Breast of Canada as a success, yet admits there will come a time when people won't want to buy a 2002 calendar anymore.

"I'm looking at it from two points of view," explained Richards.

"I'm looking at it as a spectacular success for me and my small team of people in that we sold 4,000 copies, but from a financial sense we really needed the help of a major organization."

Early in 2001 Richards sought an agency to endorse the calendar, which features educational text as well as black and white pictures of breasts of varying shapes and sizes, courtesy of Guelph photographer, Melanie Gillis.

Richards was looking for a group she could donate 40 per cent of the net profits to, and her aim was to find an organization whose "goals and objectives fit with the purpose of the calendar."

She thought she'd found that when she approached the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, an organization "dedicated exclusively to the support and advancement of breast cancer research, education, diagnosis and treatment," according to its Web site.

Richards' offer to donate 40 per cent of the net profits to the CBCF was rejected.

Months later she tried again and was again rebuffed.

Jay Hooper, the CBCF's national funds development director, said he felt the images were "provocative but good." Still, the organization was uncertain as to the fund-raising potential of the calendar.

Hooper reviews between four and six national projects each month from groups looking to be associated with the CBCF.

When Breast of Canada landed on his desk he called in about half a dozen associates to go through the project with him.

"This was something that took us a considerable amount of time to review," he said.

Hooper said the main reason for rejecting the calendar was its fund-raising potential. He said he told Richards to come back in a year, when the calendar had established itself.

"It was just not a project we wanted to get involved with," he said. "But we are prepared to look at it after a year."

Richards maintains that if the calendar had the endorsement of the organization, sales would have jumped.

"If we had been associated with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation we surely would have doubled or tripled the amount," she said.

So far only 4,000 of the 20,000 calendars printed have sold. Richards is reducing the price from $24.95 to $12.50 in order to unload them.

She's also looking at offering a further reduced price to businesses interested in buying large quantities for employees or clients.

"This will hurt me if I don't break even," said Richards. "I'm an independent artist and not a wealthy person by any means.

"But I'm not rolling over yet."

With national attention from the media concerning the CBCF's choice not to back the project, Richards has been able to attract more hits at her Web site, www.breastofcanada.com.

While normally receiving between 1,500 and 2,000 hits a day, on Monday the site got more than 5,000. Between three and four orders a day are coming from the Web site, and local retailers are still selling the calendar.

"I still feel I have some time left," said Richards. "The calendars still have value, at least until the end of the month."

Asked whether this will influence her decision to continue with the calendar next year, Richards said it will depend on whether or not she can recoup her losses.

"It wasn't a bad thing to do," she said. "There were just a few missing ingredients."