Bright Pink founder Lindsay Avner was all smiles at a fundraiser for her year-old organization Friday night at Le Passage. “It’s amazing to be 25 and know what your purpose is—why you were put on this planet,” Avner told me in between hugging guests and doling out thanks for helping spread Bright Pink’s mission (the group provides resources for young women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer). “This is definitely our biggest event yet,” she said. “But more than that, we had more than 50 high-risk young women reach out and get involved, which is tremendous.”
A little background on Avner, if you haven’t heard of her already: Shortly after graduating from the University of Michigan in 2005, Avner tested positive for a gene that increases one’s risk of breast cancer by 85 percent. Breast cancer killed both Avner’s grandmother and great-grandmother while they were still relatively young (39 and 57, respectively); her mother is a breast and ovarian cancer survivor. Avner, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and now lives in Chicago, chose to have an elective double mastectomy as a preventative measure at age 23. “It took me about a year to ultimately make the decision,” she said. “I have absolutely no regrets, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to help pioneer this effort among other amazing young women.” A year ago, in January 2007, she launched Bright Pink and began hosting fundraisers at Chicago-area bars.
Just named a “Woman to Watch” by the Sun-Times, Avner is one of those people who radiates a spirit belying her young age. She’s not only a strikingly beautiful, svelte brunette; she has a grin that lights up the room—which, on Friday, was filled by a sold-out crowd of 425 partygoers. Other than the pink balloons scattered throughout Le Passage’s newly redesigned space (and healthier-than-average, certified-organic cocktails, courtesy of the fair-trade vodka Qino One), it was a typical night out: mainstream, danceable tunes blaring from the DJ booth; a young, sociable crowd looking to mingle. One single attendee told me: “I’m here to support Bright Pink, but I won’t lie. I knew there would be a lot of cute girls here tonight.”
As for advice for other young women: “Attitude is such an important part of dealing with one’s risk and even fighting the disease,” Avner said. “My mom, a two-time breast and ovarian cancer survivor, never stops smiling. She appreciates life and every moment, like each of us should. She is my inspiration.” Friday’s benefit raised almost $14,000, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to Bright Pink. Talk about inspiring.
This week on the Celebrity Beat: Singer Josh Kelley celebrates the release of his fourth album, Special Company, with performances 6 and 9 p.m. Thursday at Rockit Bar and Grill. Tickets are $35 and include admission to an afterparty at The Underground. Word from the Rockit Ranch guys is that Kelley’s new bride, Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, 27 Dresses) plans to attend. For tickets, visit www.ticketweb.com.
Photograph: Sarah Preston