We had the good fortune of connecting with Carrie Madrid and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carrie, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
My business, The CARE Project, Inc., was born out of my own life-altering diagnosis of Stage III breast cancer. I never even considered all of the ways a patient’s life is affected once diagnosed. You tend to just think about life or death and enduring treatments. You don’t think about the financial impact or even the psychological impact a cancer experience can have on a patient. My business was born out of necessity, to fill in the gaps of support for breast cancer patients, within my own community.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The CARE Project, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that not only provides emotional support and resource assistance, (Like many other breast cancer charities,) but also provides financial assistance. We know that everyday necessities become luxuries when you’re not working full time due to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, not to mention multiple surgeries and physical therapy. Some examples of necessities we help pay for are as follows: Rent, utilities, co-pays, groceries, fuel for transportation and cell phone bills. Most cancer charities only provide financial assistance for diagnostic testing or screenings, (Which is awesome!) and some organizations grant grocery gift cards or fuel cards (Also awesome!) Very few help pay bills the way we do. The good thing is we see other organizations coming on board to try to help with some of these and that is exactly what is needed! What sets The CARE Project, Inc., apart from other breast cancer charities is that there are no salaries paid out of the funds we raise through our annual gala and monthly donor contributions. We all volunteer while working full time jobs. 100% of what we raise goes to help patients with the necessities once our own rent and utilities are paid. Donors know exactly where their donations are being allocated to. When donating through our website, you can choose which program you’d like to fund. One of the most important things to us is raising male breast cancer awareness through our alliance with The Male Breast Cancer Coalition. From inception, The CARE Project’s mission statement has indicated we are here for “male and female breast cancer patients.” Once we linked up with the MBCC, we knew we had a partner for life. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime, but did you know 1 in 833 men will also be diagnosed with breast cancer? Because of our alliance with the MBCC, we have male survivor mentors across the globe that will be one on one support, as well as online group support, for any males that come to us for emotional/resource support. TCP started out as a “big, bright idea,” to help other patients navigate the unknowns following diagnosis and then the practical help financially. We also decided that a traditional support group was not for us. We formed the Survivor Social Club which meets monthly to check in on each other, share tips and tricks, struggles and triumphs and have some laughs as well. We also bring in professionals, as needed, to help navigate tough times and clinical issues. Our social club members know that they don’t have to “just stay positive” and only talk about the upside or silver lining. They are free to vent, yell, curse, cry or whatever else they need to do while with others who have been there and done that. We are truly a family. In addition to the financial and emotional support, we have a Wellness Program with a Wellness Team. On our team are professional clinicians, personal trainers, nutrition experts, massage therapists, yoga 4 cancer teacher, meditation/reiki teacher and athletic trainer. We also have Dr. Angela D. Martin leading our board as our Chief Medical Officer and Dr. Leita Harris on our wellness team to educate and support our female patients as they navigate being thrown into premature menopause and all the side effects of hormonal changes. TCP was founded in 2014 and has proven to remain sustainable for over 5 years now. We are funded by monthly donors who sign up to join our CARE Club through our website. No amount is too small. Every $10 is a copay or gas money to get to treatment. We also host one main gala per year which is where we raise the bulk of the financial assistance we provide to patients. With Covid-19, we have no idea if we’ll be able to host that event this year and that is a little worrisome. At this time, until we see more donors sign up to join our CARE Club, we may have to suspend any financial assistance until we are able to host our fundraiser. Last year we were blessed to receive a $10,000 grant from Stater Bros Charities and that has helped us through this Covid-19 situation. We have some amazingly generous supporters who share about TCP every chance they get, host Facebook fundraisers and donate monthly, bi-annually or annually. It is ONLY because of them, we have remained sustainable without a grant writer or huge grants. The story of how TCP was founded and sustained is proof that something beautiful can be born out of something tragic. It also shows that if you feel strongly that you need to do something, do your research, share with those you feel will truly support you and go for it. EVERYONE can make a difference in some way. I know that my own stage III breast cancer diagnosis in 2012, at the age of 41, was solely for the purpose of birthing The CARE Project and helping others navigate this rocky path. My life may have been a hot mess for a time, but out of it came a sense of purpose, self esteem, self love, strength, determination and resilience beyond measure. I often say, it’s ironic I’m given the title “Survivor” now. Before my diagnosis, I was merely surviving life. Today, I am LIVING each day like it’s my last.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
If my best friend comes to Riverside to visit, we are going straight to the Mission Inn first and have a cocktail or appetizer in the Presidential Lounge. After exploring the hotel, we’d walk across the street to Mario’s Place for the amazing calamari or really anything! (It’s all delish!) We would also walk up Mt. Rubidoux and enjoy the view of the city from the historic cross. It is truly my therapy to walk the mountain and just sit once I reach the top. We’d also have to go to Tio’s Tacos and explore all of the amazing art and eat nachos and tacos till we can’t breathe. I would also take my friend on a walk down Victoria Avenue and pick up some fresh strawberries at the Raul & Family Farm. Because of Riverside’s location, you can get to the mountains, the beach or Los Angeles within an hour. There are numerous things to explore from hikes, amusement parks, museums and beaches. The possibilities are endless.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
All of my fellow breast cancer survivors, male and female, who have inspired me, encouraged me, checked on me, mentored me and shared their most fragile moments with me. They inspired me to create my nonprofit and keep me motivated to keep going when I want to quit.