Our History – Celebrating Life since 1996

From a garden party for 250 to the Bay Area’s premier breast cancer fundraising organization

In 1996, ten women participating in a dance class directed towards breast cancer thrivers came together to form a nonprofit foundation called the Marin Breast Cancer Committee (MBCC). The focus of this new organization was to raise funds that could be granted to nonprofits providing emergency and direct services for underserved women and men living with breast cancer. The ten founders, all having experienced breast cancer, wanted to support underserved patients in their community.

In that same year when the founders started MBCC, they held the first fundraising event for the foundation called Stepping Out which was a garden party featuring a fashion show. From that early beginning, Stepping Out has gone on to become the signature fundraising event for the organization. Remarkably, $42,000 was raised from that very first event, providing the seed money for the B.R.E.A.S.T. Center in Greenbrae.

Over the years, the Foundation’s mission has never wavered. A few years after forming, Marin Breast Cancer Committee became Marin Breast Cancer Council and then in 2006, To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation was created as the new permanent name.

In the last 24 years, the Foundation’s annual grants have averaged $242,000. These grants have been critical in funding direct service nonprofit organizations whose missions focus on the underserved and vulnerable populations living with breast health issues. These services have ranged from emergency and financial assistance to navigation of the medical system to diagnostic testing. Particular emphasis has been placed on services that Annual Needs Assessments predict are most needed. Through the prudent stewardship of To Celebrate Life and the responsible fund allocation of the direct service nonprofit organizations, tens of thousands of individuals living with breast cancer have been served.

As of 2019, To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation has awarded $5.5m in grants to provide services to those in need in the greater Bay Area. While this is an impressive figure that has helped to make a difference for thousands of individuals, there continues to be a need for increased funding so that more women and men living with breast cancer can receive much needed emergency and direct services.

To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation is a volunteer-based organization. The work of the foundation is aided by a contracted part-time support team.
We raise money to give it away through grants to Bay Area nonprofits. Through experience and developed expertise, our grants process has become very stringent. There are three distinct steps that we use today for awarding grants:

1.  A community-based committee made up of current and past Board members as well as medical, financial and nonprofit personnel, carefully review each grant application, submitting their final recommendations to the To Celebrate Life Breast Cancer Foundation Board of Directors.
2.  The Board of Directors then provides final approval.
3.  Grants are awarded in April of each year where each grantee receives their grant check in person at the Grant Awards Reception.

At the mid-year point of the grant cycle, Board members and volunteers make site visits to all grantees to verify use and progress of funding.

To Celebrate Life values its volunteers, support team and all donors. Without them, we could not hope for our vision to become a reality:

No one should face breast cancer alone.

When we began this project we just wanted to help each other. In helping each other, we helped ourselves, and we developed strength and encouragement and support for so many others.

Inspiration from one of our founders, Janice Still

To Celebrate Life Founders

BB Bernheim
Lynn Bowersock
Patti Bryson
Maria Edelstein
Chris Ruppe
Bonnie Sauter
Kathryn Servino
Janice Still
Joanne Villanova
Teresa Wootton

Our Story – Video

Your contributions support multiple stages of treatment and a range of services for healing. We put your dollars to work in the community.