As the first charity of its kind, CoppaFeel! came about when at the mere age of 23, Kris Hallenga discovered she had been diagnosed with stage four cancer. After being misdiagnosed twice, Kris and her twin sister Maren took to spreading awareness on the importance of checking your own boobs and knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for. And so CoppaFeel! was born.
Within a few week’s of starting the charity, Kris was appearing on TV sharing her story, in a hope to keep other women from the same fate and began raising heaps of money in the process.
So for the second interview of our new series that celebrates empowering women, we’re turning out attention to this inspirational duo…
How do you balance your home and work life?
M: It took me a few years to get a good balance in my life – and I’m not sure if I’ve 100% succeeded with that yet! When you run the show, it’s hard to switch off but thankfully I live in Cornwall and my haven is the beach so I can quickly escape work life and be in a different mindset all together.
K: I have learnt to set some boundaries but I am still pretty hopeless at switching off! I have limited working from home to the front room instead of my bed!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
M: Don’t take life so seriously. Eat less crap food and stop worrying about boys and what other people think. Everything WILL be ok in the end!
K: Check your boobs you silly moose!
In your eyes, what are your biggest achievements?
M: My number one has to be the fact that I’m working with my best friend/twin and together we run a powerhouse of a team and a charity that is making a positive difference to people’s lives.
K: I guess I should probably say the same as she did for number one… Then getting an honorary doctorate from Nottingham Trent University for the work I do with CoppaFeel! That was quite an epic feeling. And staying alive and well
If you hadn’t ended up starting CoppaFeel, what would you love to be doing?
M: I’d love to run my own camp site with a cafe that serves homemade icecream and awesome coffee.
What quality do you look for when hiring a new member of your team?
M: Someone that isn’t afraid of hard work, will grasp this opportunity by the horns and is comfortable saying ‘boobs’ in front of large audiences!
K: Someone who is unapologetically passionate and driven, a proper go-getter who knows how to take a joke. All the skills and knowledge can be learnt.
What advice would you give someone wanting to emulate your success?
M: Be prepared to earn nothing to begin with, work incredibly hard and ensure there is a need for what you’re doing.
K: Don’t be put off by the nay-sayers.
What mistake do you often see people making when they’re climbing the career ladder?
M: Doing something for the wrong reasons.
K: Doing a job they hate!
Do you have a saying /mantra in life that you swear by?
M: Kris I and share this mantra – you can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter. It really resonates with us and we’re pretty confident we’re doing a good job of glittering this turd!
K: She got there first!
Who inspires you the most?
M: While running this charity I’ve encountered so many incredible people, who have faced adversity and who are doing amazing things to make this world a better place. It’s good to have constant reminders like that around you – it gives you great perspective.
K: Anyone who goes through a bloody hard time and learns to be an even more awesome person on the other side. I am surrounded by awesome humans, in particular awesome young women who are passionate, wise, opinionated and have good stuff to say. I love watching young people be good people.
What makes you feel empowered?
M: Listening to the Dixie Chicks at a very high volume while I’m driving. (If you don’t know who they are, you haven’t lived!)
K: A good tune motivates and empowers me too, for sure! That and knowing your hard work is worthwhile.
You’d be lost without…?
M: My cocker spaniel Rambo, who is the love of my life (after my husband)
K: My cat Wilhelm! (I am a PROPER cat loser)
CoppaFeel! has changed the voice of charities and how they talk to women, what was the inspiration?
M: I guess when we looked around at how other organisations were talking to women of our age, we felt there was a big gap we needed to fill. We absolutely wouldn’t have started CoppaFeel! if we hadn’t felt that there was a big need for an organisation like ours to exist.
K: It seemed like such a no brainer to start having conversations about boobs from a younger age. Why was it something that we weren’t discussing at school? At college? With our mates? We had to address this by talking to young people on their level – without patronising or preaching. We want to be their educated friend. There’s still so much to do but I’m confident we’ve made a good start!
What’s coming next for the charity?
M: Where do I start? This year we’re finally hosting our own mass participation event called the Silent Disco Dash, curated by our pal and patron Greg James. This will be quite a unique event, targeting people who don’t really love running that much but want to support us – and have a dance/shimmy/wiggle around a 5 or 10k track in Kent. It takes place on 22nd May and we have many surprises up our sleeves so get involved! Visit silentdiscodash.com
In your work for the charity, what has been the most inspiring moment?
M: Gosh what a question! There have been SO many moments that have taken my breath away. A couple of years ago I met a 9-year-old boy called Caleb, who is the son of one of our amazing fundraisers. His mum had breast cancer and after watching our documentary on BBC3, he became a big supporter of ours. I met him in Cornwall at our Hilly Hundred cycling event (his dad was taking part). He told me that he was going to give a talk to his entire school about his amazing dad and his mum’s experience with breast cancer. My heart nearly burst – I treasure those moments a lot and remember them on tougher days!
K: Receiving the first email from a young woman who said our message had saved her life; that she wouldn’t have gone back to her GP had it not been for me and CoppaFeel!. That’s when we knew that this was now a life mission.
Visit Coppafeel.org to find out more about the signs and symptoms…