The trunk door of Wendy Robertson’s Dodge Charger couldn’t close when she tried cramming more than a hundred purses inside.
In fact, she had amassed so many, that she had to let the women’s accessories overflow into the backseat of her car when she loaded them for delivery to Darla Bracklow – the founding organizer of the upcoming Power of the Purse fundraising event.
Robertson is not a purse snatcher, nor is she a purse collector. But, she is a local woman hell bent on helping fight women’s cancer.
The 47-year-old Cloverdale resident is a cancer survivor, and while going through chemotherapy to treat of Stage 4 breast cancer last fall, she was invited to the inaugural Langley’s Power of the Purse.
“I had no idea what it was my mother was taking me to,” all she knew was her sister and niece were joining them and she was told to simply view as an afternoon escape.
She soon learned that Power of the Purse is an annual event where new and “gently used” purses are sold and auctioned off, with all the money raised going to support research for women’s cancers.
The Power of the Purse event founder, Bracklow, is a friend of Robertson’s mother – both being mobile home residents at Aldergrove’s Pioneer Park.
While Robertson was going through her initial cancer treatments, Mom would offer other residents in her trailer park email updates about Robertson’s surgery, chemo, and radiation.
When Bracklow’s plans for a tiny purse swap within the park evolved into a much larger community fundraiser, Bracklow felt it only fitting that she extend an invite to Robertson and her mother.
Recalling how much fun she had at last year’s fundraiser, Robertson described the first-time event as empowering and supportive.
“I thought it was really fun… they had really nice purses, and some for only $10,” she recounted, unwilling to devulge just how much she donated to the cause or how many purses she took home with her last year.
“Shhh, don’t tell my hubby,” she giggled. “But , needless to say I walked away with a few nice pieces, a few neat purses.” Robertson said, pointing to an American Girl purse as her favourite score of the day.
“Last year was very busy and a lot of money was generated from it,” Robertson said, impressed by the concept of a casual, inexpensive, and fun event like this to raise money for a cause dear to her heart.
She walked away from last year’s event motivated. She wanted to do something this year to give back to the cause.
Initially, she thought about volunteer during this year’s event, but realized that she was limited in what she could do given health restrictions and physical limitations, so while she’s signed up to do a short shift at the cash desk, she had to think of another way to help out.
That’s when she started to pull together purses – both new and near new – that she could give to Power of the Purse.
She challenged herself and friends (via Facebook) to fill her car trunk, “and it’s a big trunk,” with purses and scarves, Robertson explained.
She began collecting Aug. 1, expecting it would take only a month to fill the trunk. But as September approached, Robertson’s trunk wasn’t full and she wasn’t content to come up short.
Extending the challenge a couple extra weeks, she put out a further plea to her personal network of friends, associates, and even complete strangers. She also went shopping on online bidding sites. Suddenly the trunk was literally overflowing.
She’s collected purses of all kinds, small ones, big ones, coach bags, many brand name purses, and even an animated elephant purse that Robertson describes as “so cute.”
Please with the final outcome of more than 100 purses and countless scarves that she knows will be sold or auctioned off on Oct. 23, Robertson is feeling pretty good about her effort.
“It makes you feel really good… because your helping other people,” she said, noting she’s “excited to be part of it. It really is a cause dear to my heart.”
An almost 10-year battle
Robertson was originally diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer on her right side in December 2007.
She underwent eight rounds of chemo, surgery for a bilateral mastectomy, then five days of radiation.
Too complicate matters, Robertson had suffered a stroke six months before the cancer diagnosis, and she also suffers from a blood disorder, which means operating poses an extremely higher risk for her.
Nevertheless, surgery was required to remove her breasts and lymph nodes, and she began a regime of drugs (that continues today) to fight the cancer found in her bones – specifically her vertebra, shoulder blades, and two ribs.
Fast forward to four and a half years after her breast cancer diagnosis, and doctors found a tumour on her brain, that was subsequently (completely) removed in 2013.
As a cancer survivor a few times over, Robertson has been asked to share her story, but she’s admittedly too shy for public speaking.
This project, Power of the Purse, allows her to work behind the scenes, and help out in a way more suited to her strengths.
“It’s a joke now that I want to save other girls boobs because it’s too late for mine,” she told the Langley Advance.
Tickets are available
The second annual Power of the Purse fundraiser happens on Sunday, Oct. 23 at its new location in the Fort Langley Community Hall, from 1 to 4 p.m.
Tickets are already selling fast, Bracklow said, noting the price of $20 each.
The afternoon event will also feature a wine and craft beer tasting, raffle, a selfie photo booth, the silent auction, and other activities to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society – BC Chapter.
The inaugural event last year raised $6,000, and it’s Bracklow’s goal again to reach that amount, maybe even exceed it .
Tickets are available at JD Farms, Langley Advance, and Bob’s Steakhouse.
For more information, people can follow Power of the Purse Langley 2016 on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.