MERRIAM, Kan., Oct. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Lee National Denim Day kicks off National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with one important goal – raising critical funds for American Cancer Society breast cancer research and support programs. Thousands of people nationwide will choose a day in October to celebrate Denim Day by wearing their jeans and donating $5 to the cause. Since its inception in 1996, Denim Day has raised more than $86 million to fight breast cancer. With the American Cancer Society as this year's Denim Day beneficiary, funds raised will support life-saving screenings in communities nationwide; provide a free place to stay for those traveling away from home for cancer treatment; and invest in groundbreaking cancer research. Leading the effort is Lee National Denim Day's 2012 survivor ambassador Debbie Howe. Forty-six year-old Howe began treatment six months ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she underwent a double-mastectomy that failed to eliminate the cancer, she began chemotherapy treatments. Howe relies heavily on her team of family and friends for support and to help her rise above breast cancer. Every day, the American Cancer Society provides information, day-to-day help and emotional support for cancer patients. This year, Lee National Denim Day hopes to contribute millions to the American Cancer Society in the fight to end breast cancer. "I'm grateful for the work being done by Lee National Denim Day," says Howe. "During the darkest part of my life, it helps to know that there are so many people out there working to make a difference for me and the millions of others diagnosed with breast cancer." Fifty percent of net proceeds raised through Lee National Denim Day will benefit community-based programs, including breast cancer screenings and the Society's Hope Lodge® initiative, which provides cancer patients and their families a free place to stay when they have to travel away from home for treatment. In 2011, Hope Lodge facilities across the country provided approximately 250,000 nights of free lodging to nearly 38,000 patients and caregivers – saving them nearly $23 million in lodging expenses. The remaining proceeds of Lee National Denim Day will help fund the American Cancer Society's national research grants to find cures for breast cancer. As the largest private, not-for-profit funder of cancer research, the Society has contributed to nearly every cancer breakthrough in recent history. Their funded researchers have helped develop the drugs to treat advanced breast cancer and have shown that mammograms are the most effective form of detection. One in every two women newly diagnosed with breast cancer reaches out to the American Cancer Society for help and support.