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Cancer-Fighting Bagels are Back

Pink Ribbon Bagels — a favorite, annual item from Saint Louis Bread Co. — became available this week. A portion of each purchase goes toward breast cancer research.

Cancer-Fighting Bagels are Back

This year marks the 10th anniversary of . offering their special Pink Ribbon Bagels during October as a way to raise funds for breast cancer research. A portion of proceeds from the specialty bagels sold in the company's bakery-cafes during this month are donated to the  St. Louis Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, hence the bagel's tie to the color pink and the ribbon shape.

Pink Ribbon Bagels are made with cherry chips, dried cherries and cranberries, honey and brown sugar. They have a subtle vanilla flavor.

Customers also can purchase a "Power of Pink Baker's Dozen" in special pink-accented boxes.

Walker said most people purchase more than one of the Pink Ribbon Bagels at a time, often taking a half dozen with them.

Here's the background story about how these bagels came to be, as shared with Panera Bread card members:

Twenty-six years ago, Sue Stees was pronounced cancer-free. But amidst the relief and gratitude, she also wondered, “Why me?” Why did she survive breast cancer when so many other women weren’t so fortunate?

Now she has the answer, and it lies in part with the Pink Ribbon Bagel.

Stees co-owns 18 Panera Bread franchises throughout Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. She became involved with an organization called Tulsa Project Woman that provides mammograms and follow-up treatment for the underprivileged. In 2001, she was brainstorming fund-raising ideas with a friend when they thought of making a pink bagel.

“I discussed it with my business partner,” she recalls. “We developed the recipe with our bakers, and that year we sold 27,587 of them, and won the ‘You Can Make a Difference Award’ from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the well-known breast cancer association.”

The idea took off from there. Panera Bread adopted it corporately in 2005, refining the recipe and shaping it into an actual ribbon. This October, as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, most of our 1,400 bakery-cafes will sell them. Each store picks a local recipient for the proceeds. In 2009, Panera Bread bakery-cafes collectively sold over 1.3 million of these bagels.

Naturally, such a unique bagel inspires some unique promotions. Stees remembers a relay race between Panera Bread bakery-cafes in Fayetteville and Bentonville, Arkansas, with the bagel serving as the baton, and a reception at the Oklahoma governor’s mansion, featuring the Pink Ribbon Bagels.

But Stees, whose Panera Bread franchise is called Traditional Bakery, derives the most satisfaction not from public events like these but from the personal stories of patients like herself who became survivors.

“I was checking out at the hardware store the other day when this woman said, ‘Aren’t you that Panera lady who had cancer?’ I replied that I was, and she proceeded to tell me her story…’”

“I’m proud that this little idea has made such a difference and inspired so many women,” says Stees. “When you’re diagnosed, and then you make it all these years, you do think ‘Why me? Why have I made it?’ Well, I know now that this is my purpose.”

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