Dressed to the nines, Johnstown-area women came together in support of a great cause.
The 12th annual Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out fundraiser was held Tuesday at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center in downtown Johnstown.
Proceeds go to the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center in Windber and are used to ensure that the facility has cutting-edge equipment for the detection and treatment of breast cancer and provide free mammograms, genetic testing and other services to uninsured and underinsured women through the Pink Ribbon Care Fund.
The evening featured a dinner, pink basket raffle, live and silent auctions, online auction, purse room and presentations about breast cancer.
Girls Night Out began as a small “pay it forward” project by Oechslin, a breast cancer fighter who was diagnosed when she was 36 and succumbed to the disease April 9, 2009, at the age of 39.
It was her goal that every woman be educated about breast cancer, understand the value of early detection and receive proper treatment.
“The money we raise is staying here and supporting local women, and that was Taunia’s mission when she started this that women who have the breast cancer diagnosis get the care they need and deserve,” said Meghan Stahl-Skinner, event chairwoman. “I’m hearing from the community that we are helping and we are impacting people who can’t afford it.”
The event sells out each year within a week of being announced.
“We are changing lives and helping women by encouraging them to get their mammograms and do self-breast exams, and we’ve been doing that for 12 years,” Stahl-Skinner said. “This is Taunia’s legacy, and we will continue to do it and bring the monies to the women who need it.”
The goal this year is to raise $120,000.
To date, more than $725,000 has been raised.
“I know that we are making an impact because of Taunia’s mission,” Stahl-Skinner said.
Donald Dudley, Oechslin’s father, said the event reflects on who Oechslin was and who she could have been.
“It’s extraordinary what she started, but the women who have kept it going have made it a living memorial for who she was. It’s also a way for women in this community to support one another in the needs for breast cancer screening and genetic profiling, particularly for women with financial needs or those whose insurance needs are lacking.”
He hopes the event will show women that they are each other’s keeper.
“Each women here needs to ask their friends when was their last mammogram, because if you don’t have early detection there’s not as good a chance to save a life,” Dudley said.
“A lot of young women come to this event and think this is something they’ll face when they’re 40, but no, a monthly self-breast examination is every bit as important as mammograms.”