Boarding for breast cancer has biggest year yet |

Boarding for breast cancer has biggest year yet

Michelle Taggart has been challenged by the toughest snowboarding competitions in the world, and more often than not she has come out on top. On Saturday at Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort, the six-time world champion was determined to give her best effort ever – even though she knew she would probably never leave the VIP tent.

“It’s been two years in a row now that I haven’t been able to get out on the course,” said Taggart, a Salem, Oregon native who won the gold medal in the half-pipe competition at the X-Games last year.

“But that is perfectly fine with me. I’m here for a different reason.”

Taggart and many of her snowboarding peers gave it all for the cause on Saturday, signing autographs, meeting fans and even getting in a little snowboarding when time permitted. It was all part of the Fourth Annual Boarding For Breast Cancer Snowboard and Music Festival.

The event featured several of the world’s top snowboard professionals, plus a top-flight lineup of bands – including Ozomatli, Blink 182, Spearhead and Less Than Jake. Peter DiStefano, a former member of Porno For Pyros, was also on hand.

Locals call it BBC, and it was founded in 1996 in the memory of Monica Steward, a prominent snowboarder and clothing designer who died of breast cancer that year.

“We come out to help raise awareness, so that hopefully someone else will not die from this disease,” Taggart said. “I don’t think people take (breast cancer) seriously. Or perhaps it’s that they take it too seriously.

“With young people, sometimes the serious approach doesn’t quite get through. But with this event, it’s a really fun, relaxed atmosphere. I think the message is getting through.”

Sierra-at-Tahoe president John Rice has seen BBC grow from a small, word-of-mouth concert and barbecue four years ago into a major end-of-winter event.

“This is the best crowd we’ve ever had, and I’m very pleased that the momentum keeps building,” Rice said. “It proves that we are moving in the right direction. You can look around here and see that the cause is front and center. Even the bands are talking about it (between songs). I think people are getting the message.”

No official numbers were available Saturday, but resort officials estimated that the crowd was well above last year’s turnout of approximately 7,000. That’s a bit surprising, seeing that last year’s marquee band was the popular Foo Fighters.

“This year we went with slightly lesser-known names, but with more diversity” Rice said. “It seems to have worked. People have come in from all over; Seattle, Colorado, Oregon.”

Everyone seemed to get behind the cause. The bands played for free, and the snowboard professionals were more interested in promoting breast cancer awareness than actually competing. Several of the Sierra-at-Tahoe employees even donated their salaries for the day.

The event has raised more than $237,000 for the Breast Cancer Fund, The Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Nina Hyde Center For Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University’s Medical Center.

Much of the money comes from equipment and clothing sponsors who sell their goods at the event, with half of the proceeds going toward the cause.

“What I’ve found is that many of the people who are involved have their own personal stories to tell,” Rice said. “This disease has touched many, many people.”

That is true for Carl Young, who plays base and sax for Spearhead, a San Francisco-based band.

“My mother died of breast cancer, so this really hit home for me,” said the native of Gary, Indiana. “Basically it’s just a great cause. It’s all about bringing awareness, and we’ll do anything we can to help.”

The main fight against any disease is winning the public relations battle, said Linda Kaczmar, the operating room unit coordinator at Barton Memorial Hospital.

“When you’re in your 20s, you think you’re invincible,” she said. “But Monica Steward was only 29. This event has generated a lot of response with young people, and that is so valuable. Research and early detection is a key to stopping this disease.”

Taggart thinks Steward would have been very proud of the work being done.

“She was a good friend of mine,” Taggart said. “We’re out here spreading the word for her.”

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