On a bright July morning, Victoria Tashman breezes through an open-air mall, pulling a bouquet of pink balloons. Her other arm carries a rolled-up pink banner, which complements her pink floral sundress. Quite an impression she makes as she passes shoppers, clearly a woman on a mission.
That mission becomes clear when she enters Brighton Collectibles in the Westfield Century City mall. In a matter of minutes, she transforms the store into a fundraiser for Pink-Link, her nonprofit organization that supports women with breast cancer.
Like most great ideas, Pink-Link emerged from Vicki’s own personal needs. After her breast cancer diagnosis in 2004, she wanted to speak to other women who had the same type of breast cancer and who underwent her particular treatment protocol. Due to medical privacy laws, her doctors weren’t allowed to share other patients’ records. Support groups and charities didn’t collect this information at all.
Over lunch with a girlfriend and fellow survivor, Vicki shared her desire to find the right people. The more they talked, the more she realized she sounded like a frustrated single woman. “What I need,” she said, “is a match.com for breast cancer survivors.”
So she launched Pink-Link in 2006, with nothing more than passion and good programming instincts. Members can search the site based on type, stage, treatment, patient profile, relationships, geography, etc. and reach out to those who match the criteria. Privacy settings ensure that members control the information they share, including their identities.
As Pink-Link grew, Vicki added features to the site. Members particularly appreciate the “expert forum,” where five specialists in nutrition, skin care, holistic medicine, physical training and lymphedema share their insights with the community. “I’m a firm believer in exercise and proper nutrition,” she says. “It’s so important to attack cancer on every level. I’m all encompassing.”
Just like match.com, members initiate contact through Pink-Link, then decide whether to exchange email addresses or meet in real life. It has brought wonderful people together and started some lasting relationships. Some women from Baton Rouge, who met each other through the site, formed a local support group for young survivors.
This news was particularly gratifying for Vicki, since she still remembers the anxious 20-year-old survivor who approached her two weeks after Pink-Link launched. At that time, the site was so new that she didn’t have a good match for this young woman, but that conversation reinforced Vicki’s conviction that she was doing the right thing. She now has more than 4,500 members and runs the site with assistance from volunteers. Her husband, Rich, also helps out quite a bit. He shows his loving support at the Century City fundraiser, where he carries in chairs and speaks enthusiastically about his wife’s endeavors.
Those in attendance happily shop for Brighton products, knowing that 20 percent of that event’s sales are donated to Pink-Link. Vicki’s own Brighton collection includes luggage, handbags and jewelry. On this day, she wears her favorite piece – a Power of Pink bracelet she bought last year. As she speaks, she holds up her wrist so everyone can see the inspiring, powerful inscription: “Love is all you need.”
For Pink-Link, all you need is love and a good internet connection.