Press Release: Street Smarts

It’s been a busy week of volunteer training for Street Smarts, collection of toiletry items for the tote bags each woman will receive, and lots of checking once, twice, thrice to ensure everyone is on-board for the big event. Today, we sent out the official press release, so I guess that makes the launch on the 17th, well, official!

Here it is:

Imagine the Komen logo right about here . . .

Street Smarts: UAB Professor Cynthia Ryan and North Central Alabama Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Partner to Launch Breast Cancer Awareness Program for Area Homeless Women

Birmingham, Ala.–On June 17, 2011, homeless women from downtown Birmingham will gather from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Church of the Reconciler, a Methodist congregation in mission to the homeless, for an innovative health education program.

Following lunch donated by Newk’s Express Café, attendees will be treated to manicures and other spa services and receive a tailored message about breast cancer awareness from nurses working in the oncology clinic at Jefferson County Cooper Green Hospital. Each participant will leave the event with a tote bag bearing a message about breast health generated by a focus group consisting of homeless breast cancer survivors and containing a variety of toiletry items to reinforce the importance of self care.

Street Smarts was created by Dr. Cynthia Ryan, an English professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a breast cancer survivor diagnosed with the disease twice in the past 17 years. Ryan says that the idea behind the program is to address two interrelated issues facing the community of homeless women with whom she has worked since 2009: first, a lack of education about breast health and warning signs of cancer, and second, an all-too-common history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that diminishes women’s self and body image.

“By treating women to a positive experience with their bodies in a spa atmosphere, we hope to gradually encourage them to take better care of themselves,” Ryan says. “Apart from inaccessibility of health care for many of these women, there’s a sense among them that they’re unworthy of feeling healthy and alive.”

All aspects of Street Smarts have been coordinated with members of the homeless community and sponsors from organizations that regularly attend to the needs of this population. Volunteers affiliated with UAB and Komen are assisting with the event, and toiletry products for the tote bags have been donated by companies including Bath and Body Works, Victoria’s Secret, Kraft, Lancome, Sephora, and Hala Salon, as well as individual donors.

Ellen Zahariadis, executive director of Komen North Central Alabama Affiliate, says “We are challenged to expand our community outreach programs and awareness messages to reach a population of women who are all too often forgotten and overlooked in regard to such services and programs. We cannot forget about them and will not overlook their need thanks to the dedication and leadership of Cynthia Ryan and her already great work in this community.”

For further information or to request an interview, please contact Dr. Cynthia Ryan at (205) 934-8600 or or Mrs. Ellen Zahariadis at (205) 263-1700 or You may also read more about Ryan’s efforts in the homeless community by visiting her blog:

About North Central Alabama Susan G. Komen for the Cure:

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. The North Central Alabama Affiliate of Komen for the Cure is working to better the lives of those facing breast cancer in the local community. They join more than a million breast cancer survivors and activists around the globe as part of the world’s largest and most progressive grassroots network fighting breast cancer. Through events like the Komen North Central Alabama Race for the Cure®, the North Central Alabama Affiliate has invested over $4 million in community breast health programs in 38 counties. Up to 75 percent of net proceeds generated by the Affiliate stays in north central Alabama. The remaining income goes to the national Susan G. Komen for the Cure Grants Program to fund research. For more information, call 205.263.1700 or visit


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