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          Spotlight on Breast Oasis

          Breast Implants 4 You says Bra-vo to Breast Oasis, a non-profit group that donates bras — and hope — to women who need it most.

          Akron, Ohio-based plastic surgeon John Pedersen, MD, is a man with a plan. His goal is to provide women in need with gently used or new bras as they make a fresh start. Pedersen has performed a multitude of breast surgeries over the years, and has often wondered what women did with bras they no longer needed following breast reduction, breast reconstruction and/or breast augmentation.

          Did they just throw away these used, often expensive garments? And if so, was there perhaps a better use for these bras? His wife, a gynecologist, suggested that women in shelters or rape crisis centers may need bras.

          And she was right on point.

          "Nobody had bras," Pedersen says. "They had shirts, shoes, skirts ... you name it, but nobody had bras."

          Now growing numbers of these women do have bras thanks to Pedersen's brainchild, Breast Oasis. Founded in 2009, this nonprofit group has donated 100,000 bras to women in need across the country so far, and plans are in the works to expand their reach internationally.

          Do these donations make a difference? Yes, they do, according to Dana Zedak, the director of community relations for the Battered Women's Shelter and Rape Crisis Center of Summit and Medina Counties in Akron, Ohio, whose center was the first to receive bras from Breast Oasis in 2009. So far, they have received hundreds of them.

          "Imagine not having any of the things that give you comfort when you need them most," she says. "Bras are important to women, so this is huge. We always needed bras. It's not that community members didn't donate bras; it's that they really didn't donate all that many, and the centers never had an assortment of sizes and styles to offer women."

          Thanks to Breast Oasis, this problem has been solved. "We are so grateful to have so many bras for women to choose from," she says.

          Breast Oasis is more than a Salvation Army, so much more.

          The group donates bras, but they also pass on hope, strength and encouragement to women who need them most.

          Women donate their bras at participating doctors' offices, where they are checked, sorted, laundered and certified before they are gift wrapped for delivery. Each bra is labeled with a bra identification number, or BIN. Women who donate bras are encouraged to visit the Breast Oasis website and write messages of hope and encouragement to the bra recipients using their BIN. The recipient then types the BIN into the website to read these messages, which offer encouraging words such as, "I hope this small gift is the first brick in your path to a new high point in your life. God Bless."

          The communication that is fostered serves as a virtual oasis for women in need.

          As of now, there are more than a dozen doctors on board whose offices serve as donation centers, and there are more on the way. The group also sponsors local bra drives, and Pedersen does his part to promote Breast Oasis. "I wear my T-shirt during office hours," he says.

          If you have gently used or new bras, you can donate via the Web or in person. Financial donations are also accepted.

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