‘Mel’s Club’ Offers Breast Health Education Program for Young Women


The MaryEllen Locher Scholarship Fund at CHI Memorial Foundation is scheduling presentations for ‘Mel’s Club’, a breast health education program for teen and college-aged women.

Mel’s Club equips and educates students in three key areas: myths and misconceptions regarding breast cancer; facts, warning signs and prevention; and tools and training in how to do a breast self-exam.

Mel’s Club was launched in 2014. Now beginning its eighth year, Mel’s Club has educated thousands of girls in area schools on the importance of breast health beginning at an early age. “We want young women to understand that being aware of their breast health is necessary, normal, and natural,’’ said Cindy Pare, MaryEllen Locher Scholarship Fund coordinator.  “Younger women tend to believe breast cancer is a disease for their moms or grandmothers. Through Mel’s Club, we empower them to take control of their health as young adults.’’

The program uses a curriculum developed by the Prevent Cancer Foundation in cooperation with the Howard University Cancer Center. A breast cancer survivor shares her personal story during the presentation.

Mel’s Club presentations are available for high school and college-aged young women in schools, church youth groups, or civic and community agencies. The program is usually taught in health, wellness, or physical education classes in area schools. Each student is given a packet of information to take home and share with other women in their families.

While breast cancer statistically impacts older women at a higher rate, younger women are affected as well. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women ages 15 to 39, according to national statistics. About 12,000 women under 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. In young women, the disease tends to be diagnosed in its later stages and be more aggressive. Young women also have a higher mortality rate and higher risk of metastatic recurrence (return of breast cancer in areas beyond the breast).

The MaryEllen Locher Scholarship Fund is a college scholarship program for the children of breast cancer patients. The organization was founded as an independent non-profit in 2002 by MaryEllen Locher, a long-time news anchor and health reporter for WTVC in Chattanooga. Formerly known as the MaryEllen Locher Scholarship Foundation, it merged with CHI Memorial Foundation in January 2021.

Ms. Locher started the foundation during her own battle with breast cancer. She passed away in 2005 after her third bout with cancer. In the past 19 years, the fund has awarded 540 scholarships totaling $981,000.

To schedule a Mel’s Club presentation, contact Cindy Pare at Cynthia_Pare@memorial.org, or call 423.495.4124.  More information can also be found at memorial.org/MELScholarshipFund.

Online donations to the MaryEllen Locher Scholarship Fund can be made at memorial.org/foundation. Checks can be mailed to CHI Memorial Foundation, 2525 deSales Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37404. Please make a notation to direct to the MEL Scholarship Fund on the memo line of check.