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Pretty in pink

It’s amazing how a simple pink ribbon can represent so much.

From the struggles and triumphs, for those touched by breast cancer that ribbon is a sign of comfort. Kathy Buxton hopes that her Pink Ribbon Cupboard will bring a similar comfort to the families dealing with the financial hardships of breast cancer treatment.

“When you go through breast cancer, often you’re too ill to work,” said Buxton, who began the Pink Ribbon Cupboard organization two years ago. “There aren’t many programs out there to help families financially during that time, so that’s what we wanted to do with the Pink Ribbon Cupboard.”

Buxton knows first hand the pangs attributed with cancer. Diagnosed with breast cancer 16 years ago and now proudly known as a cancer survivor, she knew she wanted to give back to people that helped her through so much.

“Sixteen years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was such a humbling time,” said Buxton. “I had an entire community supporting me and I decided right then and there to give back and my husband Bruce, who is the most supportive husband in the world, agreed to help.”

By chance Buxton happened across the idea for Pink Ribbon Cupboard while visiting her daughter-in-law in New York City. It was called the Hope Chest, a high-end thrift store that offered all of its proceeds to help people in breast cancer treatment. A light bulb went off and Buxton decided she wanted to do something like what the Hope Chest was doing in the Brainerd lakes community. Enlisting the support of her husband and the community she leaned on during her own battle with breast cancer, Buxton teamed up with familiar faces to get her organization rolling.

Faces like Marian Foehrenbacher, who joined Buxton and Sue Beck on the Pink Ribbon Cupboard’s Board of Directors.

An Essentia Health Cancer Care Nurse manager, Foehrenbacher was a pleasant face during a difficult time for Buxton, helping her through chemotherapy like she has dozens of patients for the past two years. So when Buxton approached her with the Pink Ribbon Cupboard, Foehrenbacher didn’t hesitate to get involved to further bring ease to her patients.

“I have been in oncology for the past two years and I have a lot of passion for the whole patient,” said Foehrenbacher, who Buxton said is also a great resource for finding families to help fund. “When Kathy came forward with this idea, especially as I see the stress and financial toll it takes on nearly 100 percent of my patients going through any type of cancer diagnosis, it’s been an honor to be a part of it.

“The best and most exciting part is to see all of the money donated goes directly to patients with no administrative costs or money going elsewhere.”

Raising money through grants and fundraising events, Buxton and Foehrenbacher agree that the community has embraced the charitable organization whole-heartedly. Embraced them so much that the Pink Ribbon Cupboard was able to help 85 different families in Cass, Crow Wing and Aitkin counties with things from gas cards up to a new furnace to heat a home and a bed for a woman who was sleeping on the floor.

Creating another source of comfort wrapped in pink.

“I think big, so of course I thought that this could be huge but I have been overwhelmed with the generosity of our community,” said Buxton. “It’s the most humbling thing I’ve ever done and the appreciation of the people we helped who say, ‘I didn’t know there were people out there that do this.’

“It brings a lot of smiles.”

To get involved or make a donation to the Pink Ribbon Cupboard contact Kathy Buxton at or by phone at (218) 829-6205.

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).