- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2009

When hundreds of brides-to-be visit the Westin Arlington Gateway this weekend, they will be searching for the special wedding gown and accessories to make their day a perfect one.

The Westin is the site of the Washington stop of Brides Against Breast Cancer, a nonprofit that organizes wedding gown sales in more than two dozen U.S. cities. Money from dress sales goes to the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation, which grants wishes to Stage IV breast cancer patients and their families.

Making Memories was founded in 1998, after Fran Hansen, a Portland, Ore., woman who had worked in the bridal business, read about a cancer patient who wished she could afford Christmas gifts for her family.

Since then, the foundation has amassed thousands of wedding dresses and granted several hundred wishes, says Barbara Raskin, senior national tour director for Brides Against Breast Cancer.

“People have been very willing to donate what is a precious possession,” she says.

Today, about 85 percent of the merchandise comes from manufacturers, designers and retailers (including Washington-area donors Rizik’s and Hannelore’s of Olde Town). The remaining come from individuals hoping another woman will wear their dress and still another woman will have a wish granted.

About 4,000 gowns are in a warehouse waiting to be sold, Ms. Raskin says. About 1,000 of them will be at the Arlington sale this weekend.

Brides Against Breast Cancer gowns typically sell for $400 to $800, a fraction of the retail price. Some gowns are worth as much as $8,000, Ms. Raskin says.

Many brides are looking for a deal, as well as a way to help someone.

“This is not a frantic rush for the gowns like you see on TV,” Ms. Raskin says. “They are looking for a good buy, especially in this economy.”

Carrie McGonagle of Manchester, N.H., was a Washington-area resident when she visited the local Brides Against Breast Cancer event last spring. She had heard about the organization at the Seattle airport from a bride who had her dress with her as she was on the way to her wedding.

Miss McGonagle purchased a dress at the sale for $650.

“Every woman knows someone who has had breast cancer,” says Miss McGonagle, 28, who will be married this fall. “I couldn’t see spending $3,000 on a dress when I could spend $650 and it could go to a good cause. I can’t wait to wear it.”

Ms. Raskin says money raised from dress sales — the group also has a year-round warehouse store in Santee, S.C. — has gone to fund a wide variety of wishes. There are requests for trips to Disney World, trips to the District, second honeymoons and family reunions.

There have been requests for computers, sporting event tickets and a puppy.

“One woman wanted a video recorder so she could leave messages for her two daughters that they could watch as they reached milestones like graduation or their own weddings,” Ms. Raskin says. “She did such a meticulous job.

“Another mother was afraid her son’s grades were slipping, that he was being crushed by her disease, so she asked that he be able to spend the day with Bill Gates.

“Our job is to respond to what they need or what will make them happy,” she says.

• The Brides Against Breast Cancer wedding gown sale will take place at the Westin Arlington Gateway, 801 North Glebe Road, Arlington, from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. A “power hour” preview sale will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. Admission to the preview is $20.

For more information about the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation, Brides Against Breast Cancer sales in other cities, applying for a wish or donating a wedding gown, visit www.bridesagainst breastcancer.org.

• Karen Goldberg Goff can be reached at kgoff@washingtontimes.com.

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