Purple Potties Need Not Flush to Combat Cancer

A Pennsylvania woman has gained national attention for using purple toilets to raise money for cancer research.

Rebecca Szabo-Silfies of Nazareth, Pa., and her son got the idea from the website Pinterest.

The purple toilet fundraiser is a fun and effective fundraising tool recommended by Relay for Life, the fundraising arm of The American Cancer Society. Fundraising teams acquire and design their own toilets independently of Relay for Life and place them on a home's lawn. The homeowner then pays the team to remove it, according to Catherine Lee of the American Cancer Society's Income Development Department.

Homeowners can pay either $10 to have it removed, $20 to have it sent to a friend or $30 to never receive a toilet again. The payment is donated to the American Cancer Society.

Painted a bright purple, the color of hope in the fight against cancer, and decorated with flowers and jewels, the toilets are hard to miss. "We wanted to make the toilets look fun and eye-catching," Szabo-Silfies said. "One family liked the toilet so much they didn't want to give it back."

Szabo-Silfies placed the first toilet on her neighbor's lawn April 26.

"I was talking about it at my son's lacrosse game and one of the parents said they would be honored to be the first, so we dropped it off on their lawn," she said.

And from that first lawn the toilet has made stops at dozens of homes, including that of Kurt Landes, the general manager of a nearby minor league baseball team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

"At first I thought it was a prank from one of my funny neighbors, but then I read the sign and learned about the cause," Landes said. "I work with a lot of nonprofit organizations and this is the most different and unique fundraising effort I've seen. I applaud them."

Szabo-Silfies said, "People are always asking about the purple potties and talking about where they've been spotted. My family and I went to another Relay for Life fundraiser and everyone said, 'It's the toilet family.'"

Fighting cancer is a personal cause for Szabo-Silfies and her family. "I lost my grandmother and my mother-in-law to cancer," she said. "Everybody is aware that cancer exists but it's really about being aware of all the help that's out there for people affected by the disease."

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, said, "We need to recognize those who are living with the disease, and our survivor. And we need to be aware of what we need to do to create a system to provide medical, financial and psychological support for these people.

To date, Szabo-Silfies has raised $700 for the American Cancer Society. "But really it's raising awareness that's most rewarding," she said.

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