When Beth Thompson walked through the Plaza of the Americas, she attracted stares.
Among the masses of students walking to and from class, Thompson was easy to spot in her homemade plastic breast costume.
Thompson, a 21-year-old UF economics senior, decided the best way to catch attention and raise money for breast cancer research was to walk through campus wearing a plastic breast.
“When people come up to me or giggle at me because, obviously, I have this huge boob costume,” she said, “I want to let them know what it is about and what they can do to help. I really wanted to raise money because that’s the biggest way we can help.”
Thompson has a long history of cancer in her family.
“The big thing about breast cancer, and cancer in general, is that people buy pink things and try to celebrate it,” she said. “I think it’s really important that people know what breast cancer awareness really means. It’s that you actually take action.”
Thompson, who is the event chair for the 2015 UF Relay For Life, has been taking action since she was in the seventh grade when she first became involved with Relay For Life.
Her family’s history of cancer propelled her to wear the costume for breast cancer at UF. She raised $500 in three days from wearing it around campus.
“The deal was I wasn’t allowed to take it off until I raised $500,” she said. “I would get donations online from people I didn’t know. When someone says every dollar counts, it really does count.”
Curious students approached Thompson to ask her about her costume, she said. Once Thompson shared her mission, students would donate to her cause. She also asked family members to contribute.
Steven Rose, the community representative for the American Cancer Society at UF, said he is always excited to see a volunteer show initiative to raise money.
“It’s definitely a very unique way of fundraising,” he said. “It’s also one that works for our campus Relay For Life.”
In April, the American Cancer Society raised $400 million nationwide and $150,000 on campus, Rose said.
About 61 teams for the UF organization have raised about $10,000 for the 2015 Relay For Life.
Thompson plans on moving to Chicago in May to begin working at Macy’s Executive Development Program for store management. She said she is determined to continue her involvement with the organization.
“I think I am so incredibly lucky that I am a part of something that makes me feel so good,” she said. “It makes me feel like I am really making a difference.”
[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 11/1/2014]