NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH) — Joyce Bray is the force behind the Connecticut Breast Health Initiative, a non-profit in New Britain. In its 20th year, the organization raising money for breast cancer research is going strong.

Every volunteer with the group has their reason why. For Bray, it began at 13 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“You didn’t talk about it. It was in whispers in my house,” Bray said.

She remembers watching a pivotal moment on television with her mother that she says made discussing just talking about breast cancer acceptable. 

“Betty Ford was coming out of the hospital after having her surgery, and that’s when it exploded really, and everyone ran out and got mammograms because they heard about it.”

From that first lady moment to years later when Bray founded the Connecticut Breast Health Initiative, raising millions in its 20 years now for breast cancer research and education.

“Getting your mammogram and doing your self-breast exam,” Bray said.

The Connecticut Race in the Park became their popular annual event, bringing together supporters, patients and survivors. Ruth Ann Lobo was a regular participant. 

Rick Buckley volunteers at the race each May along with News 8’s co-chief meterologist Joe Furey.

Buckley shares his reason. 

“I’ve had 12 family members who have had breast cancer,” he said. ” My first exposure was when I was ten years old. My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

The Connecticut Breast Health Initiative has awarded $4.3 for 108 research grants in Connecticut. 

“With Yale, we funded this guy for three years, and then he took it to Pfizer. It got more money, then it just blossomed,” Bray said.

The money raised goes beyond research and funds survivors’ quality of life issues. 

Bray said the University of Connecticut School of Engineering students are working with medical biology students.  

“They’re making a 3D printer, especially there isn’t another one in the world to make prostheses, a personalized prosthesis for women who choose not to get reconstruction,” Bray said.