On the track, Sarah Brown strives to live up to her ferocious roller derby name Taryn Bonesapart.
On Friday, the Norman resident and her cohorts will be fiercely skating for a higher calling: to beat breast cancer.
Oklahoma City Roller Derby will host its Fourth Annual Bout Against Breast Cancer on Friday night at the Farmers Public Market, 311 S Klein. Tailgating, or “rollergating,” begins at 5 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m., and the bout begins at 7 p.m.
Plus, 10 skaters had casts made of their breasts and recruited artists to paint the molds. The buxom works of art will be auctioned off at halftime.
“It seems to be a fan favorite. Men in particular think ‘roller girls and boobs, yeah, let's go and check this out,' not realizing how personal it is. ... It's one of the charities that hits close to home for a lot of the girls,” Brown said.
“I mean, we're women. The breast cancer fight is very empowering for the survivors, and that's what roller derby does for all of us. It's an empowering sport.”
For Brown, this year's event is especially personal. Although it will be her third time to skate in the benefit bout, it is her first to do a breast cast. She painted it herself in honor of Nikki David Roberts, one of her classmates at Holt High School in Holt, Mich., who died of breast cancer in January at the age of 32.
“It hit home to me the fact that she was the exact same age as me, we both have a daughter and we have so many friends in common. I've seen her fight through Facebook posts, and she really affected a lot of people,” said Brown, a member of OKC Roller Derby's Lightning Broads squad.
After bearing witness to her friend's cancer fight, Brown vowed to respect “the body that was given to me instead of always complaining and wanting to change it” and to create a cast for this year's auction. She painted it herself with plans to buy it back and give it to Roberts' husband and daughter.
“I'm by no means an artist, but I made it basically all about her, everything she loved, quotes that she would say. It's my gift to honor her,” Brown said.
Proceeds from the breast cast auction benefit SHOUT, an Oklahoma City-based support group for young women who are cancer survivors. The painted molds typically fetch $250 to $1,000 each, Brown said, and previous year's auctions have raised $8,000 or more.
Portions of ticket sales benefit Breast Impressions, a Tulsa-based nonprofit working to boost breast cancer awareness and raise funds to support education, prevention and treatment through art. Its main mission is to donate breast-casting kits to women recently diagnosed with breast cancer so they can make a memory of their bodies before undergoing surgery, said Breast Impressions founder Judi Grove, who creates the casts each year for the Oklahoma City bout.
“That was our first goal, but then we realized how beautiful they were and that's when we decided we should do projects for breast cancer fundraising,” said Grove, who has earned the honorary roller girl name Mammy O'Gram.
“I've worked with 17 different roller derby teams across the country ... from California to New York. They're wonderful because they're not inhibited, and casting them is always a laugh. There's usually some alcohol involved when I'm casting them — which I partake in — and it's a lot of fun. The wonderful thing about roller girls is that they are the most community-minded athletic sportswomen I've ever met. They give back to the community.”
Rachel Coffey, AKA Rach-El Diablo, looked to baseball, her favorite sport besides roller derby, for inspiration when she decided to do her first breast cast and paint it herself. Although she is a Yankees fan, she mischievously painted a low-cut Twins jersey on the mold and named the piece “Don't Let Cancer Steal Second Base.”
“I'm a nurse, and I've had a lot of patients that have had mastectomies just within the past couple of years, and I feel really strongly about health maintenance and prevention,” said Coffey, a member of Oklahoma City's Tornado Alley Roller Girls.
“Roller derby really empowers women, and I think the message that we're sending is to empower yourself to take care of yourself.”
IF YOU GO
Oklahoma City Roller Derby's Fourth Annual Bout Against Breast Cancer