Support for fighting breast cancer becomes personal

Published 10:53 am Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sue Perna of Wakefield holds up the second-place trophy she won for her entry in 2011 for The Bra-Ha-Ha, a regional fundraiser for breast cancer. -- SUBMITTED/SUE PERNA


WAKEFIELD—Before her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, Sue Perna’s experience with the disease had chiefly been an artistic endeavor.

Though the Wakefield woman knew a couple of people years ago who survived, it had become a non-issue for all of them.

The artist said hearing about The Bra-Ha-Ha, a regional fundraiser for breast cancer, inspired her.

Bra-Ha-Ha asks people to decorate 38C-size bras for an exhibition celebrating life and loved ones. The artists can tap into their own experiences or support awareness of the disease.

The fundraiser created by the Chesapeake Regional Health Foundation helps provide free mammograms and related breast health services at the Breast Center at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center.

“I like a challenge,” said Perna.

For her first project, she came up with a cabin in the woods complete with trees and mountains.

“Daunting” is how the 52-year-old described the work.

“My technique was to eliminate the mounds by using a platform so it became a stage, if you will, a vignette,” said Perna.

The second year she featured “Fort Knockers,” a reference to where America’s gold is stored.

“Fortified by yearly mammograms” was the description for her project. Perna used foam to create the bricks for the famous vault.

“It’s my favorite,” she added. “I was really surprised it didn’t win.”

Toward the end of 2009, Perna’s sister, Annie Couvertier of Beach Island, S.C., was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Because Couvertier loves dogs, Perna was inspired to use “save these puppies” as the theme in 2010. That creation won her the Best Craftsmanship award.

A year later, Couvertier’s cancer treatment was completed.

“Now she’s as clean as Whistler’s mother,” said Perna.

In celebration, the artist’s Bra-Ha-Ha project for 2011 featured a woman standing atop a rooftop holding a clean bill of health and yelling “yahoo!”

This won Perna the second-place trophy.

“We were both crying on the phone,” she said.

Her own love of animals led her to work with the animal rights group, PETA, as well her artistic style.

“I care about animals,” said Perna.

By day she was a receptionist for the Norfolk-based group. But at night she makes props and costumes for worldwide demonstrations.

“That really got me started in 3-D,” she said.

Her 2012 Bra-Ha-Ha project features a woman riding a bicycle. The point being for women to get to mammogram testing however they can.

Perna creating a float for the Ivor Christmas parade.

She did one for the Wakefield Homecoming Parade, and became a self-appointed Homecoming Queen, complete with tiara and cloak.