When Turn The Towns Teal®’s founder Gail MacNeil was diagnosed with ovarian cancer almost eighteen years ago, she realized the need for ovarian cancer awareness and saw that nothing was being done that focused solely on ovarian cancer awareness. Turn The Towns Teal grew out of this idea, and has since become a national campaign centered on promoting awareness of ovarian cancer and its silent symptoms. Through its signature “Tealing” program, volunteers tie teal ribbons throughout town centers and hand out symptom cards during September, National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In the first Tealing back in 2007, Gail and a small group of volunteers “Tealed” 40 towns in her home state of New Jersey. Now, almost eight years later, with the assistance of Turn the Towns Teal, towns have been turned teal in 46 states, as well as in Puerto Rico, Canada, and Bermuda!
Gail’s sister-in-law, Jane MacNeil, has been at the helm of the organization for 7 years now, and is in the midst of planning its largest September yet! The idea of Tealing is simple but important- to raise awareness of the disease, and make women aware of the symptoms. As Jane puts it, “one ribbon can save a woman’s life.” And it has. One woman shared on its website that “thanks to those TEAL ribbons I saw years ago I can sleep at night knowing the deadly disease that took my Grandmother’s life so young and so quickly, will not happen to me. Now I “Teal” my town and hope other lives will be saved through the awareness program of TURN THE TOWNS TEAL!” This was Gail’s ultimate goal in creating the Turn the Towns Teal campaign; she “never meant this to be about her,” as Jane explains, but “did this for other women and their families.”
Turn The Towns Teal just launched its 9th Annual Awareness Campaign, which offers a 3-tiered program, geared to fit a wide array of ways to turn a town, office, or favorite spot teal. Volunteers who opt for Tier 1 tie ribbons throughout town centers and distribute symptom cards, Tier 2 volunteers Teal private property such as their neighborhood, office, place of worship, etc, and Tier 3 volunteers tie a single ribbon to Teal their mailbox, door, etc. Tiers 2 and 3 are exciting new additions to this year’s September campaign, as Jane has found that many people like to spread awareness within a smaller scope, like their office or street. Tier 3 was introduced especially for those women who may be in treatment and only have the energy to Teal a small area like a front door or lamppost. Tealing a small area can be just as life-saving as Tealing a town, as all it takes is one teal ribbon to open up a conversation about ovarian cancer.
Jane jokes that Turn The Towns Teal is really being run by “God, Gail, and coffee.” The campaign is being carried forward by the MacNeil family, a Volunteer Coordinator, and a group of dedicated volunteers. Although internally small, the organization has been able to connect with both individuals and organizations on a very large scale. Through its partner membership with the Alliance, Turn the Towns Teal has been able to connect with ovarian cancer organizations around the country who all share the same goal of increasing knowledge about ovarian cancer in the community. In fact, many of these organizations have even then partnered with them to then turn their towns teal! “MIOCA started with us 4 years ago with two Michigan towns, and last year 50 towns in Michigan “Turned Teal.” Our program enhances groups’ existing programs. Our ribbons provide the visual, and they supplement the campaign with their own materials. We welcome the opportunity to partner with other ovarian cancer organizations,” concluded Jane.
With Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month just around the corner, we can only expect that we will see more and more towns decorated in Teal as Turn The Towns Teal works tirelessly to ensure that women become aware of ovarian cancer and its symptoms. Turn The Towns Teal®, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) charity.