Bra-Ha-Ha Infuses Creativity, Humor & Hope


Annual fundraiser a hit within breast cancer community

While breast cancer is a serious disease, a group in Chesapeake, Virginia, has chosen a light-hearted way to support the fight against it with The Bra-Ha-Ha, an annual fundraiser featuring uniquely decorated bras for the cause.

“People submit these bras as a way to memorialize someone who lost the fight, or for a loved one who is battling cancer, or for someone who has won the battle against cancer,” says Shirley Forbes, chair of The Bra-Ha-Ha committee.

The event began in 2008 to coincide with the opening of the Breast Cancer Center at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. In 2011, a committee was formed to make the fundraiser a yearlong campaign, culminating with an awards show and auction in celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month each fall.

“The Bra-Ha-Ha was designed not only to bring people into the breast cancer center but also to help women in need, help those women who are uninsured or underinsured,” says Forbes. “The Bra-Ha-Ha’s message is to spread awareness and to educate women about early detection. Being a part of this project garners excitement from everyone in the community. There are very few of us who have not been impacted by breast cancer in some way.”

Forbes has been an active member of The Bra-Ha-Ha committee for years.

“I lost a very dear friend to the disease, and I have a sister-in-law in the fight,” she says. “I know a lot of people who are dealing with this. This cause is something I am very passionate about because it is about saving lives.”

Dee Dooley of Chesapeake has designed three bras for The Bra-Ha-Ha through the years. The first bra she made was decorated like Dorothy’s dress from “The Wizard of Oz” in honor of a close friend who died of the disease. This year, she will be making a bra and dedicating it to a friend from church who is currently undergoing treatment.

“This is definitely a cause I believe in,” says Dooley. “I like it because I like to be creative, and I like to sew. I just think it’s a fun way to support a cause. It’s awesome. The show is also interesting because it is a nice gala and you just feel so good being there because you know you are supporting a cause that is so important.”

The Bra-Ha-Ha raises funds to provide mammograms and other breast cancer services for ladies in need throughout Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina. Roughly $500,000 has been raised through the campaign during the past five years.

People of various ages and backgrounds decorate the bras in many imaginary ways. The bra design finalists are unveiled at The Bra-Ha-Ha Awards Show & Auction. Men get into the spirit, too, with 35 men this year committed to raising $3,500 each as part of the “Men in Pink” portion of the campaign.



“This is not just about women,” Forbes says. “Breast cancer affects everyone. Breast cancer isn’t something fun to talk about, but we’ve turned it into something fun and creative. When you are dealing with something like this, it is important to remember to laugh and celebrate as well.”

The Bra-Ha-Ha Awards Show & Auction is set for Friday, September 25, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at Chesapeake Conference Center in Chesapeake. Tickets are $100. For more information, visit