Last summer my heart was hurting and the pain from the death of my daughter was still so fresh and raw. I needed to see life, I needed to see something other than drab and dismal, I needed to see hope in action.
When the team at Vera Bradley invited me to join them for the Vera Bradley Classic Celebration, the annual fundraiser for the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, I was excited because…um, hello! Vera Bradley??! I had no idea the beauty that I would experience that first weekend of June.
As I arrived in Fort Wayne, pink ribbons donned every tree, not just downtown, but in neighborhoods! Businesses, individuals, organizations and neighbors came together to purchase ribbons through donations to the foundation. Each ribbon waved proudly in the breeze in memory of a woman who lost the battle against breast cancer. The drive up the path to the Sycamore Hills Golf Club (one of the host sites for the Classic) was lined with the memorial ribbons.
Women passed by in golf carts, dressed in matching shades of pink. Flowers bloomed and every surface was decorated with beautiful trademark prints that could only have come from Vera Bradley headquarters.
After a day on the golf course there was a silent auction that featured many items that were made in favorite Vera Bradley prints. A special dinner was held outdoors under a white canopy that was festooned so beautifully that your brain had no idea that there was a carpet of grass beneath your feet and that the fair weather from earlier in the day had turned to a torrential downpour. On that day, over one million dollars was raised towards finding a cure for breast cancer, a disease that leaves so many of us motherless and plants fear in our hearts for our children.
The next morning I sat down to breakfast with members of the Vera Bradley team. We talked design, we talked fashion, we talked about our families. And then there was a tour, yes a tour. My eyes saw things that won’t be seen by the public for years! It was exciting.
During the tour we stopped for a while and studied the wall that had every single print ever used on a Vera Bradley product. It was so cool to see the changes in fashion and style, in color and design. I imagine it must be somewhat humbling for Barbara Baekgaard and Patricia Miller to look down the hall at the beginning (1982) and remember the hard work, the tears, the pain, the joy and see the beauty it has all become. From the smiles on a woman’s face as she hooks her new handbag over her shoulder to the smile on a researcher’s face as they receive the funding to find a cure for a terrible disease.
When the cure is found, won’t it be so beautiful to know that because of a purse, so much was given towards the efforts to heal so many?
Surrounded by flowers, whimsical design, stories of healing, and giving people — into my heart was woven a tapestry of hope. Hope that we will all heal from our losses, hope that our losses inspire us to make a difference, inspire us to prevent others from losses of their own, and hope that my own creations are outward evidence of the beauty within my heart.
The Classic is the largest amateur women’s golf and tennis charity tournament in the country. More than 2500 guests and volunteers participate in six divisions of tennis and four golf tournaments held at three separate clubs! In addition, there are two dinner celebrations, two auctions and an annual donor reception during the Classic weekend. The Vera Bradley Classic® fundraising event raises approximately $1 million per year. Every year the Classic takes place around June 1st, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.