October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and bagel enthusiasts will soon have the opportunity to support the fight against breast cancer while getting something to nosh on in a single purchase.
During October, THB Bagelry + Deli will be selling limited-edition pink bagels to raise money for LifeBridge Health’s local cancer centers. LifeBridge consists of several health care centers, including Sinai Hospital and Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, which are both agencies of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore.
THB’s pink bagels will be available from Oct. 11 to 15, and are essentially plain bagels with food coloring, said Tony Scotto, co-owner and CEO of THB Bagelry + Deli. Additionally, the company’s bagel boxes, which normally contain as many as 20 bagels and cream cheese, will be available in pink from Oct. 1 to 31, with some of those proceeds also going to LifeBridge.
“We at THB, we are famous for our colorful bagels,” said Scotto, a resident of Towson.
The company has had specially colored bagels before, such as for Maryland Day and for when the Baltimore Orioles are playing. A member of Scotto’s team had the idea for the company’s pink bagels years ago, Scotto said. THB first offered them in 2013 and has continued to do so every year since. But for this year’s pink
bagels, LifeBridge is a new partner.
In the past, THB partnered with other groups, such as Susan G. Komen. In 2020, THB donated more than $4,000 to Susan G. Komen, Scotto said. However, Susan G. Komen has since dissolved its Maryland chapter, so THB found itself in need of a new partner.
During the pandemic, THB was one of a number of organizations making donations to LifeBridge Health to support its health care workers, said Kelly Meltzer, the director of central services at LifeBridge Health’s department of development. Specifically, THB made regular donations of individually packaged bagels and cream cheese to LifeBridge’s Sinai and Northwest hospitals. Because of this preexisting relationship, LifeBridge was an obvious choice for THB when they were looking for a new partner for their pink bagel sales.
“We’re really going to be the beneficiary of the proceeds from a variety of different [THB] sales throughout the month of October,” Meltzer said.
This support may be of particular benefit to the Jewish community. Ashkenazi Jewish women are at a slightly increased risk for developing breast cancer, said Dr. Michael Schultz, director of LifeBridge Health Breast Health in an email.
“Part of that is related to the fact that in addition to our rich heritage, for hundreds of years living in small towns … in Eastern Europe, there was a tremendous amount of ‘intermarriage between close relations,’” Schultz said. “The populations of eligible couples were small and it wasn’t uncommon for cousins to marry. That created a tight gene pool, such that genetic mutations were magnified. … Some of those genetic mutations increase the risk of breast cancer.”
Meltzer expects much of the money from the sales to go toward patient assistance funds, which can be used to help patients with transportation assistance, medical copays for medication, walkers, canes and wigs or hair coverings for patients who have lost their hair, she said.
THB has had many Jewish customers since the opening of its first location in Towson in 1999, Scotto said. He added that the company opened its Owings Mills location in June of this year in part to be closer to their Jewish patrons. The menu includes classic Jewish fare such as whitefish, pastrami and lox.
“As a matter of fact, one of our busiest days is Yom Kippur,” Scotto said. “Yom Kippur is like the Super Bowl for us.”
Scotto thinks that there will likely be another sale of pink bagels for Breast Cancer Awareness Month next year, and he hopes to be able to partner with LifeBridge again.
“We’re incredibly grateful to be chosen,” said Meltzer, who is Jewish. “[THB] could have chosen to work with someone else, and they chose LifeBridge Health because, I think, in addition to the partnership that we have newly created, I think they recognize that we’re a very important institution, particularly to the Jewish community in Baltimore.
“I appreciate the awareness that they are bringing, not only to breast cancer, but also to our institutions,” Meltzer added.