Girls affected by cancer organize flash mob at Shops At Wiregrass
By B.C. Manion
Shortly before noon Saturday, a troupe of 20 began making moves to Kanye West’s “Stronger.”
The group, including kids from 11-14 and one 48-year-old woman, came walking out of the crowd at The Shops at Wiregrass, in a flash mob aimed at supporting breast cancer research.
It wasn’t as dramatic as some of the flash mobs posted on YouTube, such as those performed in large train stations, but this one originated with two girls who wanted to do something tangible to support the battle against a disease that has afflicted their mothers.
Fourteen-year-old Diana Bryson organized the event, with the help of her 14-year-old friend, Jennifer Roberts.
Diana’s mother, Lisa, who was one of the dancers, is in the midst of cancer treatments. Jennifer’s mom, Jan Roberts, who was in the crowd, is a breast cancer survivor.
Diana, a freshman at Wiregrass High, came up with the idea.
“It was just one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do. We were at school and it was like, ‘Hey Jennifer, we should have a breast cancer flash mob.’ ”
That was in September.
Since then, the group has practiced twice a week for five weeks at John Long Middle.
At the mall, a stream of dancers clad in pink T-shirts made its way from out of the crowd into an area in front of a fountain near Macy’s and then sprang into a dance based on the theme of fighting cancer.
Performers threw mock punches. They did muscle poses. They concluded the dance by creating the form of a pink ribbon.
And, when the music ended, they filtered back into the crowd.
The kids choreographed the dance themselves, Lisa said. Fourteen-year-old Vicky Baraldi and her friend, Sydney Bounnell, came up with the dance moves.
The dancers included Lisa, Diana and her 11-year-old sister, Sarah, the kids’ friends and some of Lisa’s former students from John Long Middle.
“Diana and I picked out the song,” Lisa said. They wanted the song to reflect the need to fight cancer stronger, better, faster and harder – and to acknowledge that children with family members who have cancer must be strong.
Lisa, who has Stage 4 cancer, said, “I’m a cancer warrior. I am in the fight for my life right now.
“I have had it since 1997. I had an 11-year reprieve, and then it metastasized to my lung in the middle of my vacation. In 2009, it metastasized to my lung and I had a thoracotomy. That’s when they go between your ribs and take out your cancer and suture it up.”
“I had to resign from John Long Middle … in order to fight,” she said.
Lisa had been a teacher for 20 years when she stepped away from her post. Before teaching at John Long Middle, she was a teacher at Gaither High for 10 years.
The flash mob’s organizers — Diana and Jennifer — are both active in Relay for Life at Wiregrass Ranch High and they’re raising money by selling T-shirts that were created for the flash mob by We Love Logos.
The company provided the T-shirts at below cost and the group has been selling them for $10 each, Lisa said. Some shirts are still available and more can be ordered, if there’s a demand, she said.
Lisa said she is tremendously gratified by the support of her daughters, her daughters’ friends and her former students.
“It’s a chain of support. It’s like a spider web. You can’t fight something like this by yourself,” Lisa said.
The dancers put a lot of time and effort into learning the 4-minute routine.
They had their final practice on Friday, before doing a few warm-up routines on a deck of a parking garage on Saturday morning.
“We practiced at my house yesterday for two hours in the cul-de-sac in front of my house,” Lisa said.
That’s where Jennifer Roberts broke her toe.
She was a trooper, though, and danced in the flash mob despite the pain.
Lisa, who has estrogen receptive breast cancer, said recently she received the best news she has received since 2009.
“The chemotherapy that I’m taking has started working. It (the cancer) is disappearing from my bones.
“It’s in my skull, right collar bone, my sternum, right rib and pelvis, femur and I have three tumors in my liver,” Lisa said, noting that doctors believe the cause of her cancer is genetic. Her sister, mother and aunt all have been afflicted by the disease and her aunt died from it.
Lisa said the prognosis from her oncologist had been that she had three to five years, but she added: “This good news from my oncologist just bought me an extra year.”
Lisa said she is especially proud of her daughters.
“They keep me alive. My daughters make my cancer worth fighting.”
Lisa also wanted to remind people that buying something pink to support cancer research is far more than a fashion statement.
“One thing I want people to know, when they buy all of that pink stuff and that money goes to research, that research has personally helped me.
“I have been in a clinical trial at Moffitt. It has helped save my life.”
The proceeds from the T-shirt sales benefit the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, which benefits all types of cancer research, Lisa said.
Anyone who would like to buy a T-shirt or help the Wiregrass Ranch High Relay for Life efforts in other ways may contact Lisa at (813) 907-8918 or email .