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The Power of Partnerships: Employees of The Estée Lauder Companies Making a Difference

By BCRF | November 16, 2017

Theresa Selvaggio shares her story.

Over the last 25 years, The Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Campaign (The Campaign) has been a leading voice for breast cancer awareness, igniting a global movement that has helped fund innovative research and inspired meaningful action against the disease.

Evelyn H. Lauder founded The Campaign and co-created the pink ribbon in 1992, sparking this global movement to end breast cancer. Mrs. Lauder founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) the following year in 1993 and The Campaign has remained a critical partner since. The Campaign has raised $70 million dollars globally, of which $56 million dollars has funded 225 medical research grants through BCRF. Employees of The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) have played an integral role in The Campaign’s success in raising awareness and propelling research forward, faster.

We talked to several of the incredibly dedicated staff at The Estée Lauder Companies to learn what drives them, year after year, to support research.  

Theresa Selvaggio serves as the Regional Vice President for Estée Lauder Field based out of Chicago. Theresa has worked for the Company for 35 years and explains that her priority has remained the same over her entire tenure: creating the ideal customer experience. While she always has her goal in sight, she has also managed to balance an active role volunteering to raise funds for The Campaign.

How do you raise money for The Campaign?

I started raising money for The Campaign when Evelyn launched it 25 years ago. We’d travel the country, going from city to city, establishing initiatives with many of our retailers. It was a pleasure to watch her from Dayton, Ohio to Toronto, Canada.

We started very small because, back then, most women were not talking about breast cancer. I watched Evelyn empowering others to have the courage to openly discuss what was then a taboo subject—person by person, retailer by retailer.

I helped her with selling jewelry and pashminas, hosting auctions and art shows, and even with her book signings.

Our goal was dual pronged – raising awareness and money – educating people on the necessity for fundraising. Evelyn really talked about the research, giving the doctors a voice.

Through the month of October, ELC employees are so proud of what they do. The Campaign gives them so much pride. Twenty-five years later, we still give out pink ribbons and provide tips on self-care. It’s been incredible to watch the evolution of how we talk about breast cancer—something that was once whispered about in hushed tones.

What inspires you to raise money for breast cancer research?

I can’t overstate the impact that Evelyn Lauder has had on all of us by ingraining the whole idea that we have a responsibility to give back. The way she did it made it so honorable—not a duty but a privilege.

Meeting the researchers has been incredibly powerful. When you talk to a researcher, like Dr. Funmi Olopade in Chicago, who works every single day to find a cure for breast cancer, you realize that you must keep the momentum going because funds are critically needed. It’s really kept us inspired.

We can’t eradicate breast cancer without research. I’m a mom of three daughters and I don’t want them to worry about this disease. It’s just so common and while it’s not as frightening as it once was, it’s still something they may have to face.

Any words of inspiration for others who are hoping to make a difference like you have?

Be proactive—join fundraising activities happening around you or initiate programs yourself. We did a walk Wednesday morning at 6:30 AM to raise money for BCRF and we walked the beach of Lake Michigan together before our meeting. We were joined by women in our group that had breast cancer and it was just the BEST day. Did we work? Yes, we worked late into the evening but when you start a day like that, it never gets old. For us, that inspiration will always be BCRF.