VIRGINIA

Don Ballard, Chantilly auto shop owner, 'brakes for breasts'

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Leading cancer research estimates that more than 220,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. One man is working to bring that number to a screeching halt.

When he was only 12 years old, Don Ballard lost his mother to breast cancer.

"You know, it's family upheaval, it's tough," says Ballard, owner of Master Mechanic Diagnostics & Repair. "A 12-year-old kid then being raised by a father, it's a tough deal."

Seven years ago, he lost his father to cancer, too. That's why he's dedicated to raising money for cancer research.

"Giving back just makes you feel good," he says.

And now Ballard is running a deal called Brakes for Breast Cancer. For every brake-pad replacement, the brake pads are free. And part of the labor costs goes directly to breast cancer prevention.

"This is very personal to me," he says. "I think prevention, as they say, is the cure for just about anything."

The majority of breast cancer funding goes toward breast cancer treatment research, rather than prevention. Ballard says his donations will go toward a breast cancer vaccine being developed at the Cleveland Clinic.

Gareth Thompson says he's glad to know just changing a brake pad could help save a life.

"It actually makes me feel very good that I can be part of helping other people, especially as breast cancer is such a big deal," Thompson says. "It's really going to help and support a lot of people."

Ballard hopes to raise at least $4,000 this month, and he says 27 other body shops nationwide are joining in.

"We'd like to raise $100,000 total," Ballard says. "I think it's a win-win for everybody."

And for Ballard, a way to honor his parents' memory.

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