Everyone was involved in making the Vera Bradley Classic successful in its 26th year – the participants, volunteers, organizers, vendors and even Mother Nature – and the result was $1,006,083 raised for the fight against breast cancer.
Lynda Houk, executive director of the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, described the event as very exciting.
“It's very hard because you set a standard, and you work really hard. We strive every year to do everything we can, raising the funds and keeping our expenses down,” she said, adding that many businesses went the extra mile by providing things for the Classic such as food, beverages and sound systems.
“We have all these people not just giving cash – it's a big, huge event with a lot of expense – and ... I was so amazed at the in-kind support we got.”
It's the ninth time, and the fourth straight year, that the Classic's take has eclipsed the $1 million mark.
The foundation came into this year having donated $32.5 million to support advancements in breast cancer research.
“Can you believe this weather? Oh my gosh, it has been amazing. It's perfect temperature, it's sunny and that just adds to the enhancement of the already beautiful event. It's been just wonderful,” Houk said, as golfers played the courses Monday at Sycamore Hills Golf Club and Pine Valley Country Club.
There were 388 golfers – 236 in the 9-hole events, 152 in the 18-hole – as well as almost 200 participants in yoga Sunday at Freimann Square and 78 on Saturday at Indian Trails Park for pickleball, which this year replaced tennis on the docket.
Pickleball is a cross between tennis, pingpong and racquetball played outdoors on a smaller version of a tennis court. Houk said its addition to the annual fundraiser was “a huge success.”
“We had more comments about expanding and 'Oh, we're going to bring our friends,'” she said. “The guys who were there were kind of jealous, saying, 'We can't stand just watching the women play. Can you do a men's tournament too?' So you never know.”
Houk said organizers will look at improving and expanding the pickleball tournament in the future.
Also, the Classic had over 350 volunteers involved in the process of its events.
The Classic was founded in 1994 by Patricia Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard after the death of Mary Sloan, one of the first Vera Bradley sales representatives. Money raised benefits the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
This year's Classic wrapped up with a celebration dinner Monday night. Hours before, Houk talked about organizers' goal for the banquet's program. She said they want to thank participants for their consistent support and show results from funds donated in previous years.
“We have some very powerful survivors that are sharing some of their stories, as well as some of the researchers that have directly affected their treatments. That's basically what this is all about: We're working really hard to give the funds to researchers to find solutions, to find answers, so the survivors can have a better quality of life,” she said.
“A big emphasis on what we're sharing is we're focusing on some of the deadliest diseases, some that don't really have standard treatments, like triple negatives. We are really focusing a lot on that because that's a segment of people who contract the disease and don't have very good results.”