Ribbon campaign in Bristol is visual cue to think on cancer

BRISTOL — Around 40 teal-colored ribbons hanging from lampposts all around the Bristol village center announce that Turn the Towns Teal has come to Bristol. September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and the Turn the Towns Teal campaign aims to save women’s lives by “tealing” towns in all 50 states — and raising awareness of the disease and its symptoms.
Ribbons (biodegradable and made in the USA) stay up for all of September and are then removed.
“It’s a really simple process,” said Hinesburg resident Melody Danaher, who launched Vermont’s first Turn the Towns Teal campaign in Charlotte and Hinesburg in 2013 and has been expanding town by town every year since. “You get permission from the town, you tie the bows, you hang them, they’re up for the month and then you take them down.”
Each teal ribbon, supplied by the National Turn the Towns Teal organization, carries informational slogans, such as “Know the Symptoms” and “The Silent Disease.” Additional information about the disease and how to recognize symptoms is supplied through posters in store windows and symptom cards available on store counters.
“It’s a great way to increase awareness of the symptoms,” said Bristol volunteer Terry Masterson-Spear. “Even just in the process of putting up the ribbons, there were many people coming up to us and asking us, ‘Well, what is this all about?’ ‘What does this mean?’ So it gave us an opportunity to educate people. Chances are the folks you speak with know someone who’s had ovarian cancer. It’s the type of cancer, unfortunately, that the symptoms are very subtle. It’s known as ‘the silent killer’’ — by the time someone’s diagnosed it can be too late. So the idea of the campaign is to educate.”
According to the national Turn the Towns Teal organization, “there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer,” and early symptoms can be overlooked by doctors and individuals alike.
Danaher learned about the campaign from a friend in New York, who’s an 18-year ovarian cancer survivor. And she wanted to help.
Bristol first got “tealed” in 2014, along with Charlotte, Hinesburg, Richmond and Shelburne. This year Danaher and her volunteers have added Williston to the list of the six Vermont and 272 towns tealed nationwide.
Volunteers in Chittenden and Addison counties kicked off the campaign with a ribbon tying party the last weekend in August.
“We were tying like frenzied people,” said Danaher. “It took us about an hour and a half, and we did probably about 400 bows. It was a community effort for sure.”
To learn more about Turn the Towns Teal and about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, go to www.turnthetownsteal.org.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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