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New organization aims to support prostate, testicular cancer charities

Contributing Writer

Published: Saturday, December 3, 2011

Updated: Sunday, December 4, 2011 17:12

Protect the Balls

Rebecca Strang/Central Florida Future

Protect the Balls, an organization dedicated to raising money and increasing awareness of prostate and testicular cancers, was created by a group of freshmen. Merchandise is now on protecttheballs.com.

From "save the ta-tas" T-shirts to "I Heart Boobies" wristbands, irreverent messages in support of breast cancer awareness are everywhere.

But where's the love for men affected by prostate and testicular cancers?

That's the question a group of freshmen asked that led to the creation of Protect the Balls, an organization dedicated to raising money and increasing awareness of those cancers.

"It was during breast cancer awareness month, so breast cancer stuff was everywhere," freshman finance major Greg Phelps said. "I thought, ‘No one does any cancer events for men.'"

They responded by creating "save the huevos" T-shirts and "I heart huevos" wristbands with an upside down heart that Phelps said "kind of looks like a scrotum." So far, the group has sold its products and collected donations during Market Day in front of the Student Union and during an Alpha Tau Omega event with positive results. And last week, they made their merchandise available on their website, protecttheballs.com

"At first, everybody laughs and says that's a really good idea," PTB's vice president Caitlin Burns said. "When we start talking about how we donate to prostate cancer and testicular cancer research, then it makes people see we are serious about it."

She said about three out of five people who donate say that have a friend or family member affected by one of the cancers.

"People relate to what we're doing and then they want to help us," Burns said.

The bracelets sell for $2, and T-shirts are $10.

"We try to keep them pretty cheap so that college kids will want to buy them, because we're in college, too, and we don't want to spend a lot of money," Phelps said.

Phelps, Burns and other members of the group brainstormed the idea in their introduction to leadership class, offered as part of the LEAD Scholars program.

"In my courses, I try to have students come up with problems that need solutions…whatever they're most interested in," Student Union Associate Director Rick Falco, who teaches the class, said. "And that's where this idea came from."

Falco said he liked the idea but was concerned that that it might be offensive to some people. So he asked colleagues and friends to see what they thought.

"Everybody kind of liked the idea," Falco said. "Some people laughed, some people thought it was cool but no one was said, ‘Oh my gosh, that's no good.'"

According the American Cancer Society website, more than 240,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed this year in the United States, and almost 34,000 men will die from the disease. Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men between 18 and 35, according to the website. But breast cancer can strike men as well, with more than 2,000 men diagnosed every year in the U.S.

Phelps spent about $500 of his own money to buy the first run of T-shirts and bracelets. In the future, he said PTB would like to form a nonprofit organization. But for now, they donate the proceeds to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, livestrong.org.

PTB also plans to expand to other schools, Phelps said, starting with the University of Miami, the University of Florida and Florida State University. He hopes it will eventually become a national movement.

"I hope that it gets that big, and everyone in our group seems to believe that it will," Phelps said. "I don't see a reason why it wouldn't get as big as the breast cancer movement, because more people are affected by prostate cancer than breast cancer. Once people realized that, they'll be willing to support the cause."

PTB will be in front of the Student Union Wednesday, Dec. 7, taking donations and selling shirts and wristbands.

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