Ten years ago, when Tammy Gail went into surgery for a breast lumpectomy, she made a promise to herself: “If they caught everything, I would do something really big to help other women.”
Unfortunately, that surgery revealed more cancer and Tammy had to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. “I was in my late thirties, I had no cancer in my family, I never called in sick, I never had a cold. … It was not supposed to be me,” she says.
As a single parent to a teenage son, Tammy was terrified. “I melted down, I just melted down,” she says. But thanks to an “amazing dream team of support,” she got through a year of treatments.
When Tammy finally felt she had her “mojo back,” she decided to do a breast cancer run. Sadly, the experience left her feeling empty rather than inspired. “I felt guilty that I survived,” she says. “So many kids’ parents were gone and it was a horrible feeling to feel guilty about surviving.”
She decided to launch an event that had humor and was very tongue-in-cheek. “This disease is devastating and I wanted to take that devastation out and make something fun,” she says.
Glam-A-THON began with a bunch of men and women donning high-heels and strutting to the motto of “divas don’t sweat, they strut.” Tammy says her initial focus was to spotlight and raise funds for a very specific group – women and men aged 25 to 55 who are coping with breast cancer. “At that age, you’re in school, you’re working, you’re developing a career, you’re raising a family, you don’t have time to stop and be sick,” she says.
The first year saw 350 people strutting around the Galleria Mall. The number doubled in year two. “There is an amazing network of women and men in the community who are guardian angels,” Tammy says.
And the event continues to grow. “We wanted something more chichi, for people to get dolled up and be treated like a rock star,” she says. That’s when her team introduced the luxury wine-and-dine event, Lipstick Lounge – where “confection, cosmetics, couture and cocktails collide.” Tammy says she envisioned the evening as an “overwhelming sensory overload. … No matter what lifestyle you’re in, you will be wowed.”
Something for the guys
The event was a huge success, but Tammy once again saw room for improvement. “We felt we were missing the boat because a lot of guys loved the event and wanted to help and be involved, but it was too much estrogen!” she jokes. Last year, the team established the Big Boys Chest at Lipstick Lounge. It offers everything from golf games and cigars to shoe shines and the “metrosexual hot steam shave.”
This year, Lipstick Lounge will take place on September 12 at the Gallery of Amazing Things in Dania Beach as Glam-A-THON celebrates its eighth year. Tammy’s team is once again upping the ante by inaugurating the “Glammy Awards.”
“We’ve got some really amazing people in the South Florida community. We really want to acknowledge them,” she says. The honors will take place during a VIP ceremony immediately preceding Lipstick Lounge. The main event will feature new restaurants, beauty lounges, cocktails, plenty of swag, and not-to-be missed desserts.
“Our specialty area is the sweet spot – we really pride ourselves on this incredible dessert station,” Tammy says. Last year, the event featured liquor-infused Sin City cupcakes from Las Vegas as well as Rated M wine-infused gelato. (Don’t worry – that one is coming back!)
Helping desperate cancer patients
While the glitz and glamour of Lipstick Lounge certainly makes for one of South Florida’s hottest events, the foundation serves an even more important purpose.
“A lot of large charities have huge overhead, so your dollars could be going to marketing efforts and advertising – ours don’t, ours stay completely in the community,” she says.
The organization has donated almost $100,000 a year directly to Broward Health, serving locals who need assistance both during and after breast cancer treatments. “We can go a lot farther helping individual stories than putting our funds into a pot for research, where 100k doesn’t move the needle,” Tammy says. “Locally, 100k can help a heck of a lot of women get through the most difficult time of their life.”
Tammy recalls one instance where a patient was receiving chemo when her air conditioning broke. Already in debt from her medical bills, she had no money to buy a new AC unit. “When you go through chemo, it knocks you into early menopause, so your body is already at 900 degrees because you’re taking these poisons,” she says. Her board enthusiastically said yes to helping the patient.
Another recipient had to take the bus to and from chemotherapy treatments because her car had broken down. “We paid for her car service, so she’d have the luxury of comfort to and from her treatments, so she felt like a lady and a human being,” Tammy says.
From providing information to callers or daycare for the children of sick mothers to helping with bills or simply offering moral support, the Glam-A-THON approach is different because it’s so personal.
“We listen because we are just like the person we are helping. We are not employed by a company, we have had similar stories or been touched ourselves by this disease,” Tammy says.
How you can help
“Everybody can donate something,” Tammy says. “We need volunteers, car services, cleaning services, and more.”
Glam-A-THON’s next initiative is to seek corporate funding to do even more.
Tammy’s work always comes back to her personal experience and the positive support that she felt got her through the worst time of her life. “I always say, you never know when you’re going to be on the receiving end of someone else’s generosity, I sure didn’t.” ν
For tickets to Lipstick Lounge and more information, visit www. glam-a-thon.com.