Joe Mazzaferro is the man responsible for introducing Beyond Boobs! to one of the group’s biggest supporters. Dressed in pink and black, every year she travels through the heart of the Beyond Boobs! nation, from Portland, Maine, to Jacksonville, Florida, urging women to perform self-exams for early detection of breast cancer. She’s racked up about 400,000 miles and weighs upwards of nine tons, but she shows no signs of slowing down.
Who is this busy beauty? She is Ma’am O’Gram, a bobtail semi-truck, so-called when she does not have a trailer attached. She is owned and operated by Diamond Truck Lines, LLC, and JRC transportation broker/agent Joe Mazzaferro. After Joe’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer he searched for ways to support the cause and help other women facing a similar diagnosis. An acquaintance put him in touch with Beyond Boobs! co-founder and executive director, Mary Beth Gibson, about three years ago.
“I wanted to give more than a monetary donation,” Joe said. “I wanted to establish a long-term commitment. I offered to have Mary Beth decorate one of my trucks and she helped develop the pink-and-black design and the message of early detection.”
Joe’s mom, Ida, is 82 years old and is a 12-year survivor. Although Ida now lives in Delaware, she has seen numerous photos of Ma’am O’Gram and even got to see the lovely lady in person and meet her driver, Charlie Nowicki. Ida has also been a recipient of the love and support Beyond Boobs! is known for.
“My mom spoke with Mary Beth about her diagnosis and what she went through, including her surgery and treatments,” Joe said. “Making that connection and having that support means a lot to her.”
Ma’am O’Gram typically travels up and down I-95 and through western Pennsylvania on I-80. Currently she is hauling glass used to make many different types of bottles. She elicits responses wherever she goes and people often approach Charlie to tell him their stories of survival, or those of friends or family members. One woman on the road was so enthusiastic about the message of early detection that she decided to lift her shirt and show Charlie her mammaries.
“I guess she wanted to let him know hers were healthy,” Joe joked.
And what does Ma’am O’Gram do when she isn’t delivering goods up and down the East Coast and spreading the message of early detection? After hours the highway heroine sheds her working-girl image and takes part in competitions. In 2012 she earned third place in the working bobtail division at The Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Texas.
“She’s a hardworking truck,” Joe said. “She doesn’t sit still.”
In addition to the decorated truck, Joe also supports Beyond Boobs! through donations and by purchasing sponsorships at events. Every year he dons a suit and tie for the Pink Carpet Gala, where the upcoming year’s A Calendar to Live By is unveiled and the calendar models are honored.
“The Gala is my favorite event because it is the grandest of all,” Joe said. “Everyone learns about the calendar models and hears their personal stories. There is a reason they put Kleenex on every table at the Gala. The stories are real and so touching. It’s not just a story in a book.”
Joe’s mom is not the only connection he has to breast cancer. His father’s mother passed away from breast cancer and his mom’s sister was also diagnosed. In an interesting twist of fate, the two women were diagnosed on the same day more than a thousand miles apart. When they spoke on the phone after their appointments to share their news they had no idea it would be the same devastating news.
“My mom was in Indiana and I was living in Williamsburg when she was diagnosed,” Joe said. “I didn’t feel like I was supportive enough. Before I teamed up with Beyond Boobs! I couldn’t talk with my mom about her breast cancer because I would just start crying. Now that I have heard all of the success stories, it isn’t as upsetting to talk with my mom. Mary Beth thanks me all the time, but I’m the one who’s thankful. Beyond Boobs! gave me my mom back.”