(NEW YORK) — Allana Maiden, a 27-year-old from Virginia whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, discovered the power of people who care on Thursday when she and her mother were given an audience with the giant fashion chain Victoria’s Secret.
She and her mother, Debbie Barrett, 57, hand-delivered more than 118,000 Change.org petition signatures to the company’s office in New York City, asking them to create a line of “survivor” bras to help women who have had mastectomies and wear prostheses to feel beautiful again.
They met with Tammy Roberts Myers, vice president of external communications for Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, who offered to fly the pair to the Columbus, Ohio, headquarters for more discussions and a tour of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, a recipient of donations from Victoria’s Secret.
“We were just blown away,” Maiden told ABC News after the visit. “They actually want to send us out there and are taking this seriously. I didn’t know what to expect meeting someone so high in the company. I thought it would just be a pat on the back — ‘Good job, we can’t do it.’ It was amazing. I do think that [Victoria’s Secret] is interested in figuring out how to do this.”
Maiden and Barrett carried the petition signatures to the meeting in Victoria’s Secret’s pink-striped shopping bags.
Limited Brands has acknowledged the importance of supporting women who have breast cancer, but did not commit to making a new line of bras.
“We celebrate those who champion the fight against breast cancer,” the company said in a prepared statement for ABC News. “Victoria’s Secret and … Limited Brands, have been dedicated to helping eradicate this disease and have committed tens of millions of dollars to cancer research.
“Ultimately, we are working towards celebrating the day when breast cancer is a thing of the past,” it said. “In the meantime, we are listening and learning to understand if there are additional ways for our company to continue to extend its support.”
Maiden said she is “amazed” that her petition got this far.
“The support we got is awesome,” she said. “I knew that there were a lot of people out there who do care deeply about the issue of breast cancer. I wasn’t sure how many would get behind something like this. People go on walks and buy pink ribbons, but I didn’t know if they would respond to this.”
On Friday, the department store Nordstrom also responded to Maiden’s petition, offering to cover the cost of customizing a few bras for Barrett.
“We actually offer a service where we can convert any of our bras or camisoles in-store into mastectomy bras through our prosthesis program,” Nordstrom spokesperson Kelly Skahan wrote in an email to ABC News, looking for contact information for the mother and daughter.
“We can do it right in-store and it makes it so customers can still enjoy the lingerie they’ve always loved even after a mastectomy,” Skahan wrote. “We’d love to talk to Debbie and Allana and invite them into our store in Richmond so Debbie can have an appointment with one of our bra fitters.”
Maiden doesn’t remember too much about her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy. She was only 6 years old at the time. But ever since, Maiden has watched her mother struggle to feel beautiful — and to find a bra that fits.
Her mother wears a prosthetic because at the time of her mastectomy, insurance did not cover breast reconstruction. And, because she lives in a rural part of Virginia, she has to drive 1.5 hours to find a store that sells bras that hold prosthetic breasts.
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