Struggling Breast Cancer Program Needs Helping Hand

Web Producer: Brad Maglinger

Race for the Cure dollars go to some very important programs for breast cancer detection, prevention and awareness. But there is one program that's a little different. It's a program that tries to bring some style and a smile to breast cancer survivors. And it could use a little more help.

It's the final delivery of the year for JoAnn Melton, who's now in charge of the Sunny Day Hats With Love program. Her newest creation are embroidered baseball caps. One of them says "Diva."

"All those ladies are role model to look up to and they are outstanding divas in my eyes," says Melton.

This year, Melton had hoped to make 800 hats to give to cancer patients who are losing their hair to chemotherapy. But she only had enough money to decorate 250. The Komen Foundation was only able to give her a $1,000 grant this year. But that's still quite a bit, considering the program's humble beginnings.

Breast cancer patient Mary Welte started the program in 1999. After seeing so many other cancer survivors wearing plain, dingy hats to cover their thinning hair, she got to work creating straw hats with a little creativity. Welte's first grant from Komen was only $500. Later, at their peak, she and a group of volunteers made 500 hats, so cancer survivors could step out in style.

Breast cancer eventually got the best of Welte, whose dying wish was to find someone to take over the hat program. That someone was Melton, who was a bit apprehensive at first.

"I didn't realize how much it involved and I was really doing it really on a whim and I thought I could do it, but I knew I could never fill her shoes," states Melton.

Melton also says it's all very bittersweet. She wants to make as many hats as possible, but each one means someone has cancer. She says it helps to think about Mary.

"She's with me all the time," says Melton. "I think she's sometime my inspiration for ideas because I'm sitting there thinking, 'What am I going to put on this hat next?' and then I sort of think about her and I think, 'Oh well, maybe she'd like to wear.'"

You can help make next year's hat giveaway more successful by taking part in Evansville's Race for the Cure. This year it's on a Sunday, September 21st at Eastland Mall.

To make a donation, mail a check to Sunny Day Hats With Love, P.O. Box 249, Hatfield, IN 47617 or contact JoAnn Melton at .

To visit the Komen Web site, click here.