The issue of breast cancer seems to have struck a nerve on Topsail Island.

The issue of breast cancer seems to have struck a nerve on Topsail Island.

The campaign in support of breast-cancer awareness and cancer victims has become a year-round endeavor on the island. Practically every local watering hole has hosted a fundraiser or two — or eight.

This year’s version of an annual bicycle ride for breast-cancer support attracted more than 500 participants — and that number may top 700 for the next ride in April 2016.

Businesses join the efforts in ways big and small, from donating water and fruit for bicycle riders to providing items for silent auctions. Bars serve the food and bands play for free at bike-ride registrations. The same is true for other fundraising events, some with colorful names such as “Save 2nd Base.”

A Surf City jeweler, Mia’s, even designed a line of bracelets for the Reel Housewives of Topsail Island, which holds the annual bicycle ride.

So why is breast cancer such an unpopular disease — but a highly popular cause — on the island?

The answer is no mystery; it’s sadly familiar.

“Breast cancer is so widespread,” said Reel Housewives board member Susan Billett. “Everybody knows somebody that is affected by it.”

Surf City Mayor Zander Guy agreed. “Everywhere you go, you see someone that has the disease or knows someone that has it,” he said. “It’s a small island. We are all affected, either directly or indirectly.”

And while Topsail is teeming with tourists and part-time residents in the summer, it has a hardy, tight-knit group of year-round residents who call themselves “locals” that are the base of support.

Save 2nd Base and Reel Housewives of Topsail Island have taken root and continue to grow.

Abbey Meyer Haney’s family started Save 2nd Base shortly after purchasing the Brass Pelican in 2008. The program’s main event is a Labor Day fundraising beach bash, complete with raffles, cornhole tournaments, barbecue dinners and a silent auction. Save 2nd Base has added a womanless beauty pageant and a jail-a-thon that features a makeshift chicken-wire cell on a stage.

Haney said Save 2nd Base has raised $6,500 so far this year, with some donations still coming in and the chicken-wire jail party to come. For the first couple of years, the money raised went to support a local team participating in a breast-cancer walk. This year, Save 2nd Base has partnered with the Pretty in Pink Foundation in Wilmington.

“Our success hinges on the kindness of our fellow businesses,” Haney said. She said 40 local businesses have stepped up.

The Reel Housewives of Topsail Island has held a bicycle ride each spring since 2010, with participants covering the entire 26-mile stretch of the island. The group has raised more than $100,000 for local breast-cancer victims and their families since the rides started.

During the first event in 2010, 42 participants helped raised $2,800. In the 2015 ride last April, there were 513 participants who helped raise $38,000. The group’s money comes from sponsorships; participant entry fees; activities such as raffles and silent auctions held by local taverns at pre-ride registration events; and sale of Reel Housewives merchandise, which has become island fashion.

Local government, the medical community and local businesses are all involved.

The funds have been used to help breast-cancer victims from Hampstead to Sneads Ferry in a variety of ways, including paying mortgages, purchasing prostheses, buying groceries and purchasing Christmas presents for children whose mothers are fighting the disease, organizer Annette Erny said.

Residents coming to the aid of their neighbors seems to be a prevailing Topsail theme.

“I think in general so many people have had a family member or a friend of the family who has been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Haney said. “And it’s just this island — it would be interesting to see how much money this island raises for different charities.”

Erny made that point, as well, noting the popularity of other programs such as Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Paddle for the Troops. “The great thing is we’re surrounded by so many other giving people,” she said.

With such community-wide enthusiasm for charity, the success of the breast-cancer programs comes as no surprise to Surf City’s mayor. “We are very blessed to have the aggressive volunteer groups we have in the region to raise money to fight this dreaded disease,” Guy said.

Like most beach activities, one of the key elements of success is good times for a good cause: Barbecue, cold beverages and music are essential.

“We call it a fun-raiser,” Save 2nd Base’s Haney says, “not a fund-raiser.”