WJXX and WTLV, Tegna’s ABC and NBC affiliates in Jacksonville, Fla., ran a two-week on-air campaign promising viewers that something big was coming. What was coming was four years and $1 million in the making, and it was going to be revealed live during the evening news.
For two weeks in early May, viewers watching WJXX and WTLV, Tegna’s ABC and NBC affiliates in Jacksonville, Fla., branded together as First Coast News, were promised “It’s coming” without mentioning what “It” was.
Dozens of on-air messages from businesses, church groups, clubs and sports teams blanketed the airwaves teasing the audience that something big would soon be there.
Even Wheel of Fortune got in on the act.
The anticipation was building.
“We all received texts, emails and questions from people about what’s coming to your station,” says Kristen Joyal, marketing director for First Coast News.
What was coming was four years and a $1 million in the making, and it was going to be revealed live May 12, at 6 p.m. on First Coast News.
“This deserves to be a splash because all these people worked so hard to raise the money,” says Jeannie Blaylock, an evening anchor and reporter for First Coast News, where she has worked since 1985.
So during the evening news on May 12, with more than 100 people dressed in pink, and amidst cheers of “drop the drape,” the Buddy Bus was unveiled, a mobile mammography unit paid for by contributions from the community.
The name of the bus is a reference to a 30-year effort, Buddy Check, which has encouraged women and men to do monthly breast self-checks. The program has been the mission of Blaylock’s since she began the project in 1992.
“Jeannie basically is the matriarch of this whole idea,” Joyal says. “She started it 30 years ago and never let up. There are other stations and affiliates across the nation who have their own version of Buddy Check and it all started here right here in little old Jacksonville with Jeannie Blaylock and it has been her mission.”
The Buddy Check program includes monthly news segments featuring Blaylock about finding breast cancer early, as well as free Buddy Check kits that explain how to perform a self-exam.
Four years ago, Blaylock was talking with the breast cancer experts at Baptist MD Anderson, the stations’ partner in the Buddy Check program, and discovered that a mobile mammography unit was in their long-term plans.
That began a project to raise the million dollars the Buddy Bus would cost.
How do you raise a $1 million to buy a mobile mammography unit? “We decided that it needed a little bit of attention,” Blaylock says. “So people started making buddy bras. We ask people for a $20 donation to make a buddy bra.”
The idea took off. Businesses, school groups, sports teams, teachers, “people all over the first coast were making bras,” Blaylock says. The donations came from community grass roots organizations.
“Dozens of groups of people donated,” Joyal says. Eventually, over four years, $1 million was generated.
The Buddy Bus will be on the road soon in the Northeast Florida communities with mammogram technicians and doctors visiting offices, school and churches so that people can get a mammogram in about 30 minutes, Blaylock says.
“The entire reason we are doing this is to save more lives,” Blaylock says. “Mammograms save lives. We just need to get people to get out and do it.”