Showgirl trades Vegas for Park City
Five months after Alisa Savoretti had her mastectomy, she returned to dancing as a showgirl in Las Vegas.
She has photos of herself backstage pre-performance at the Riviera’s La Cage Theatre, standing boldly with a graceful leg extending from beneath a sheath of pink furry costume, exposing a large scar where her breast used to be, from beneath her armpit to the middle of her chest. The Vegas CBS affiliate station dubbed her the "Lopsided Showgirl," but instead of crying, Savoretti says ,she chose instead to laugh and carry on.
"They padded my costume so the audience couldn’t see it," she recalls. "It was my talent dancing was the thing I had been doing since I was four years old. I was really happy but I was back to work also because I had to."
At the time of her diagnosis, Savoretti was 38, single, without insurance and swimming in credit card debt she racked up trying to start an online business for antique furniture. As she went forward with treatment, she went on welfare.
Ultimately, Savoretti waited two years to receive reconstructive surgery through a group insurance policy through her job. Delighted to have her balanced restored, again she chose to laugh, calling her breasts Zsa-Zsa and Eva after the glamourous Gabor sisters.
But while she waited for her operation, Savoretti recognized the need for a new kind of resource for breast-cancer survivors.
"Where was the organization for women who have no money who have lost one or more of their breasts? I found out the answer nowhere," she remembers thinking. "Consciously, at that moment, I made up my mind to address my situation. I was sure I wasn’t the only one."
In 2004 at a Hooters restaurant in Las Vegas, she launched My Hope Chest, an organization dedicated to providing funding and resources for reconstructive breast surgery candidates 69 years and younger who have survived breast cancer. The nonprofit had the backing of senators, hospitals, and television networks. Since its inception, the organization has helped two young women a postal worker and a teacher and has begun to talk with one of the two major manufacturers of implants, Allergan, Inc. Through partnerships, My Hope Chest can provide the three-step procedure for reconstructive breast surgery (a year-long process, according to Savoretti) for $10,000, whereas the operation typically costs $25,000.
"My Hope Chest is really the only organization addressing survivors who have been maimed and disfigured in an attempt to save their lives," Savoretti explains. "And my goal is to sustain a foundation that raises a lot of money through laughter and smiles."
Though Savoretti says her heart is in Vegas, after more than 20 years in the entertainment capital of the world, she moved herself and My Hope Chest’s operations to Bear Hollow earlier this year. Savoretti knew about Park City from regular trips to visit her brother Mark’s vacation home over the last decade. She says Park City provides a better climate for nonprofits.
"I think Park City holds the best opportunity for the benefit of a charity," she says. "Park City is the essence of what America should be about and used to be about community, caring and family Here people look you in the eye and say hello."
Savoretti lives small, working hard to support her dreams for My Hope Chest, tending bar and driving a limo to make ends meet. But she is willing to be the big personality and the face of the organization she believes in.
"I was a young, single woman and — believe me dating without a breast is not an optimum experience. I was awkward. I walked that walk I feel I’m a voice for those who don’t know where to turn. I feel like I was chosen [to provide that resource.] I have no regrets."
Someday, Savoretti hopes, My Hope Chest will become national. She says she sees the need as being much larger than Nevada or Utah. Savoretti says her mother, who helped her recover from her surgery, just recently was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. Now it’s Savoretti’s turn to return the favor, commuting to Florida, where her mother lives.
"We need for people to know about us and understand the importance of this charity to help the thousands of women," she says. "These days everyone knows someone touched by breast cancer."
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