When Pink Jams! Founder and President Christa Floresca lost a 35-year-old friend to breast cancer in 2007, she learned the hard way that the disease does not discriminate based on gender, race, or age. That realization is what inspired Floresca to find a creative way to raise money and awareness of breast cancer’s effects on people under age 40.
“Jen was the first person I had ever met that was around my age that had been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Floresca said, “I always thought that was something that you worried about as you got older.”
Founded in 2009, just two years after Jen’s passing, Pink Jams is currently doing all it can as an organization to raise funds and engage in community discussion about breast cancer affecting people under age 40. “It’s not really about the money,” Floresca said. “It’s about the awareness. It’s about reaching thousands and thousands of people,” and that’s what the 2nd Annual Under:40 Music Marathon at the Hard Rock Café this coming weekend will help to do.
While it’s just one of many events Pink Jams hosts throughout the year, the Under:40 Music Marathon takes months and months of planning since most everyone involved is a volunteer. This year, over 65 bands and 250 musicians are volunteering their time for the cause and starting this Friday night, music fans will be treated to 40 hours of continuous performances at the Hard Rock Café in downtown D.C. as part of the Under:40 Music Marathon for a ticket price of $20.
Event headliner and alt-country artist Scott Kurt – who performs at 8 p.m. on Friday night – has been a part of Pink Jams since the very beginning. After first learning about the project in the summer of 2009 over dinner with his wife and Floresca, Kurt eventually found himself performing at Pink Jams’ first benefit concert at The Clarendon Ballroom.
“Like so many others, my family has been affected by this terrible disease,” Kurt said. “My stepmom had breast cancer and she beat it. Raising awareness is so important, and to leverage something as powerful as music is a very effective strategy.”
Volunteers flock to the Pink Jams cause for various reasons, but event performer Tiger Gilliam’s personal ties to the organization’s message is reason enough to take an early-morning shift if it means helping to raise awareness. Gilliam – who will be performing at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday – had a grandmother who died at the age of 42 of breast cancer in 1963. She wasn’t diagnosed until it was far too late.
“[Breast cancer] doesn’t affect in a singular manner,” Gilliam said. “It is a ripple that can be seen generations later. [My grandmother] left seven children motherless. Seven! As a mother myself, I can’t imagine what she thought as she was going through treatments.”
The ultimate goal of Pink Jams is to eradicate the misconception that breast cancer awareness should begin at age 40. That’s Floresca’s goal, her team’s goal, and the reason most volunteers choose to get involved. But how does Pink Jams plan to accomplish this goal? “We want health clinics and universities across the country to provide their students with breast cancer information more powerful than the hang tag,” Floresca said.
“We want the largest breast cancer organizations, people who consider themselves ‘leaders’ in this community, to stop ignoring the facts about young breast cancer diagnosis. We want doctors to stop turning away patients under 40 by telling them they are too young to worry about breast cancer.”
“In truth, our ultimate goal is to completely erase the imaginary line drawn at 40. As Pink Jams grows, we’re going to affect change one young man and woman at a time.”
When it comes down to it, spending 40 consecutive hours at the Hard Rock Café isn’t impossible even if it’s not ideal. But from Friday night to Saturday evening, people in and around the DC area have a choice of how to spend their time this weekend.
Still need a selling point? Pink Jams host committee member and event performer Keith Center had this to say: “The one thing that the struggles with cancer that my family and friends have taught me is that life is too short. That is what this music marathon celebrates. It is about doing something crazy, something memorable, something that is seemingly impossible. Sure, you can come out and see one band put on a concert or you can gather your friends, put on your PJs and pull an all-nighter and have a story that you can share for a lifetime.”
Tickets for the Pink Jams 2nd Annual Under:40 Music Marathon at the Hard Rock Café D.C. are available online. The marathon itself kicks off this Friday night with the first performer Scott Kurt taking the stage at 8 p.m.