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  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette From left: Sherry Betzner, scorekeeper Gabe Bolas, Beth Herschberger, and Susan Truax watch Danyel Miller putt on the 18th green Monday during the Vera Bradley Classic at Sycamore Hills Golf Club. The Monday, which also included a tennis tournament and yoga, raised more than $1 million for breast cancer research.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018 1:00 am

Classic raises $1 million

Vera Bradley event benefits cancer research

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Money raised

2018: $1,005,935

2017: $1,100,065

2016: $1,052,717

2015: $834,658

2014: $1,083,629

2013: $1,047,235

2012: $1,001,145

2011: $945,185

2010: $800,275

2009: $782,952

2008: $1,032,350

2007: $1,045,250

2006: $852,470

2005: $602,645

2004: $540,543

2003: $508,263

2002: $475,845

2001: $431,255

2000: $385,000

1999: $330,000

1998: $250,000

1997: $224,000

1996: $175,000

1995: $117,000

1994: $64,000

The Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Classic eclipsed $1 million in earnings for the eighth time, and organizers believe they showed just how relevant the events will be for years to come –  not just because breast cancer remains a formidable foe, but also because the Classic is mobilizing new and younger participants.

“It's wonderful anytime you can capture a young person and get them involved early,” said Lynda Houk, executive director of the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. “And then, maybe, you can get them involved further with their time or talents or their treasures. We have an opportunity to get their attention with what we're doing and why we're doing it.”

A new facet of the Classic this year was Sunday's Pink Yoga event at Freimann Square, which drew 150 participants.

“It's our 25th year, and we were thinking, 'What can we do different?'” Houk said. “We have the tradition of tennis and golf. Yoga, in a lot of communities through the United States, these types of events are starting to pop up. With how strong yoga is starting to develop in our Fort Wayne community, a couple of our steering committee members approached us with this idea of yoga in the park. It's very popular with the younger crowd and it's capturing another demographic we don't normally get.”

The 18- and 9-hole golf tournaments took place Monday with 376 participants at Sycamore Hills Golf Club and Fort Wayne Country Club, and 64 people played tennis at Wildwood Racquet Club.

Mother Nature cooperated, so everyone was in a festive mood even before the nighttime news: $1,005,935 had been raised and the Indiana University School of Medicine is launching a new research center focused on improving therapies for some of the most difficult-to-treat types of breast cancer, and it will be called the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research.

“We have given over $30 million (in our history), but it's not the $30 million alone that's been able to develop the programs.

“The $30 million that we've given them has given them seed money (at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center) to be able to grow their programs,” Houk said.

“It's enabled them to grow their programs by another $120 million because what they're able to do is, once they're able to grow these programs and get some substance behind their research, they're able to go get those multimillion-dollar federal grants to fund these ideas even further. Most people would love to have that kind of return on their investments.”

The Classic was founded in 1994 by Patricia Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard after the death of a mutual friend, Mary Sloan, one of the first Vera Bradley sales representatives.

“It's not just (about) the participants. There's no event that can raise a million dollars just by charging a fee,” Houk said.

“It's just a lot of community support, whether it's in-kind donations to keep our expenses down, or through corporate sponsorships, and that's where a lot of where the funds come from, as well as 'Turn the Town Pink' – all the ribbons you see around town – those are donations and you have to take a look at all the activities that surround the Classic and are successful.”

Notes: Winning the 18-hole first division with a 59 were Kaylee Federico, Melissa DeKeyser, Leah Lyons and Stephanie McIntosh. Winning the second division with a 66 were Karen Kirby, Julie Miller, Nadine Sheppard and Julie Anderson. ... Winning the 9-hole tournaments were the teams of Katie Glassley, Kristin Dixon, Kathryn Gentz and Kristen Terrell, who had a 33; and Dawn Hendricks, Carol Johnston, Gayle Burns and Jane Mote, who had a 35 and won on a backup.