Name: Zionna Munoz
Occupation: Founder and CEO of Barbells for Boobs - Mammograms in Action
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are very proud to feature Zionna Munoz as our Fashlete of the Month. After a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, Zionna knew she had to do something. This "something" has grown from 60 athletes in a parking lot to more than 45,000 participants across 1300 affiliates in 23 countries raising funds for Zionna's organization, Mammograms in Action.
Though Zionna says she has always been in the "industry of helping others", running a non-profit was something completely new. Prior to starting Barbells for Boobs, Zionna had been a CrossFit Affiliate owner, massage therapist, and pharmacy tech.
"I became a health insurance specialist in the pharmacy industry and lead the team that troubleshooter for over 600 pharmacies on the west coast. I hoped to one day become a pharmacist until I saw the pharmaceutical industry take a huge change in a direction I did not believe in."
It is clear now that Zionna has found her true calling. She is currently on the road visiting CrossFit Affiliates across the country on the annual Pink Bra Tour. These affiliates, and hundreds of others, are hosting fundraising events throughout the month of October to benefit Mammograms in Action. Zionna took some time out of her schedule to answer the following questions and give us some insight into how she got started, why she continues, who has helped her along the way, and how ANYONE can get involved.
To date, this incredible woman is responsible for starting an organization that has provided 1,123 procedures, detected 30 cases of breast cancer, and served 749 individuals in need of care.
How did Barbells for Boobs/Mammograms in Action begin? What is your mission?
Barbells for Boobs began in 2009 after my best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she originally went to get a mammogram she was denied services because of her age, she was 26 at the time and was told she was "too young for breast cancer". I owned an affiliate at the time and put on Barbells for Boobs to raise funds for her. Instead, she wanted me to do something more with the first $4,000 raised. Because of this, I researched options on assisting individuals under 40, this is how our mission began. Our aim is to help anyone that needs it, anywhere, whether they are male or female, regardless of their age or situation in life. No one should ever be denied services for breast health care the way my friend was.
How are the funds allocated? How did you decide where the funds would be most helpful?
Funds are allocated thru our Mammograms In Action Grant Program. We have a volunteer panel along with our Board of Directors that review applications received from breast cancer organizations and breast health care facilities nationwide. Depending on the results of the grant application review and the need of the local communities, we determine how we can best allocate funds to support and impact those in need. Working with facilities and organizations that have active breast health care programs currently in place or are willing to establish one for Mammograms In Action to live in their organization was the most effective and efficient way to get our funds to individuals. 100% of funds we grant out go to direct services for early detection screening and diagnostic procedures.
Why did you decide to use CrossFit as a format for fundraising?
I didn't realize what was created until I started sharing my story with the community. My community, my friends, my training partners. Everyone opened their heart and was inspired by my best friend and her journey. I shared my story everywhere I went and asked for support, this is how the CrossFit community became the support system for our funding.
How has the CrossFit community supported your mission to raise funds and awareness?
They've gone above and beyond to help in both of these areas! From putting on events, to bake sales, to car washes. They've dedicated so much time, resources and genuine passion into successful fundraising events. Reaching out to their members to share our story and in turn sharing so many new stories with us. My passion has become that of the over 1500 affiliates that have hosted and supported Barbells for Boobs.
Have you been able to draw supporters from outside the CrossFit community as well?
We've been contacted by all sorts of different groups outside of CrossFit. We have a community that puts on a golf tournament in Flordia every year, we have cyclist that ride their bikes for boobs, we have children that put up lemonade stands on the weekend for us, these are just a few examples. Our message has spread beyond CrossFit, but the CrossFit community remains our largest support group by far.
What are some of the most important things you have learned about breast cancer since starting Mammograms in Action?
That it's a larger problem then I ever thought it was. I did not realize how many people have been affected by this horrible disease until I went out and started speaking to people. Just this year alone, every single Barbells for Boobs I've attended I've met a survivor under 40 with the exception of 1 event.
Who have been the most influential and/or supportive people along the way?
This is a long list. I don't think I could mention them all at once. There are so many affiliate owners that have done so much for us from day one, Reebok who has supported from day 1. My family, friends, my dog, my husband and my son are all at the top of the list as well. My staff and Board of Directors that believe in my vision and my desire to help every person that contacts us.
What is your most memorable BFB moment? Is there a particular event or individual that stands out in your mind?
Yes, The very first woman we helped. I was fortunate enough to help one of my coach's cousins. It was in the very beginning before any fundraising even happened. She was 33 with a lump and uninsured. She was told it would cost $1300 for a biopsy. I spoke to my Board of Directors about her situation and they all approved to fund her screening needs. It was at that moment that I knew what we were building had to happen. She was 1 of the thousands we were going to help.
What do you have planned for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the rest of 2013?
For the past 2 years we have driven across country on what we call the Pink Bra Tour. It is our time to meet the communities that are doing so much for our cause. We would not be able to do what we do without their support, so we go out to say THANK YOU, shake their hands and throw down some barbells side by side with the participants and survivors.
What are your long term goals for BFB?
To change the way people think about breast cancer under 40. To get our healthcare system to care about the 7% of women under 40 that are diagnosed each year or the 1,000 men that are diagnosed each year. This is the gap population that goes underserved and we want that to change. We will keep doing what we do until that day happens.
How can an Affiliate or individual get involved?
Setup a fundraiser, buy a shirt, wear a shirt, donate, get screened - there are hundreds of ways anyone can make an impact on what we do. But the best way is to spread the word. If you fundraise it helps us help those in need or if you know someone in need have them go to www.barbellsforboobs.org and click GET SCREENED. Do not let anyone go undetected.
As Fashlete of the Month, Zionna is receiving a sterling silver charm engraved with the words of her choice. We couldn't resist pairing it with our mini weight plate charm as a symbol of the thousands of plates that have been lifted in support of Mammograms in Action. We hope that this necklace will remind Zionna of her personal mission and the many lives being saved... one barbell at a time.