100 Women We Love: Maria Gilbert

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In early 2012, Maria Gilbert’s mother discovered she had breast cancer—on the 10-year anniversary, to the day, of her first diagnosis of colon cancer. To distract herself from fear and heartache, Gilbert began making beaded bracelets. With a big pile of bracelets and not enough wrists to wear them, she made it her mission to sell enough of them to sponsor a biopsy (without insurance, biopsies cost a hefty $1,000) and possibly save a life. “A good friend of mine always said, ‘Cancer, AIDS and other illnesses are not the number one killers in America, lack of health insurance is.’ Organizations like the American Breast Cancer Foundation provide some financial help for those who don’t have insurance, but the need exceeds the funds,” Gilbert says. “I felt compelled to do something, and before I knew it, I made enough money to sponsor six biopsies!” Now, this Trinidadian-born, Brooklyn-raised entrepreneur has become a prominent force in the cancer-awareness community, working relentlessly to boost cancer education, and show equal support for the LGBT community around over the world. To date, Gilbert’s Beads of Hope has donated more than $10,000 to cancer foundations. –QW