Gift for Life To Honor Vera Bradley’s Barbara Bradley Baekgaard

September 24, 2018 — Gift for Life, the gift and home industries’ sole charitable organization, will honor Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, Co-Founder of Vera Bradley, during the 27th annual Party for Life, Monday, February 4, in New York City.  At the evening event, to be held during NY NOW, the market for home, lifestyle & gift, Baekgaard will be awarded Gift for Life’s Chuck Yancy Lifetime Achievement Award. The Barbara Bradley Baekgaard Family Foundation and Very Bradley have also jointly pledged a $50,000 donation to kick off the 2019 Party for Life fundraising campaign, which last year raised more than $225,000.

In 1982, friends Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller came upon a colorful idea while traveling together. Observing a lack of feminine luggage, they decided to create a company (named after Barbara’s mother) to design a line of quilted-cotton luggage, handbags, and accessories. Today, Vera Bradley is an internationally recognized lifestyle brand and leading designer of women’s handbags, luggage and travel items, fashion and home accessories, and unique gifts. Baekgaard has provided leadership and strategic direction in the brand’s development by lending her creative vision to areas such as marketing, product design, store design and visual merchandising. She served as Co-President from 1982 through 2010 and as Chief Creative Officer from 2010 to 2017. Today, Baekgaard serves a key leadership role on Vera Bradley’s Board of Directors and is an active brand ambassador with the Company. She also recently re-launched the men’s line Baekgaard USA to honor her late husband, Peer Baekgaard.


“We extend this honor to Barbara with heartfelt recognition for her steadfast support of our organization, but more importantly for her remarkable support of our industry,” said Gift for Life chair George Kacic. “Her leadership has served as an example to entrepreneurs, and her generosity to Gift for Life and other organizations has helped countless people.”

Following the loss of their longtime friend Mary Sloan to breast cancer, in 1993 Baekgaard and Miller committed to funding breast cancer research through a portion of Vera Bradley’s profits. They established the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer in 1998 to provide a structure for their efforts and to raise additional funds focused solely on investing in breast cancer research. To date, the Foundation has raised more than $30.3 million in contributions to support critical advancements in breast cancer research at the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Baekgaard has earned industry recognition and received numerous awards including the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the State of Indiana from Arthur Young/VENTURE in 1987 (awarded jointly with Ms. Miller), the Gifts and Decorative Accessories Industry Achievement Award in 2006, the Country Living Entrepreneur Award in 2007, the Lifetime Achievement Award from AmericasMart/Icon Honors in 2014 and the ACE Humanitarian Award from the Accessories Council in 2016. She also accepted the Supplier of the Century Award on behalf of Vera Bradley at the 2017 Retailer Excellence Awards “Century Awards” in celebration of Gifts and Decorative Accessories’ 100th anniversary.

“I’m extremely honored to be recognized with the 2019 Chuck Yancy Lifetime Achievement Award, especially because my late husband, Peer, was the 2007 award recipient,” said Baekgaard. “Having known Chuck Yancy and others who have bravely fought this disease, I’m proud to have been a part of Gift for Life over the past 27 years and look forward to a brighter future.”

Gift for Life was founded by Peter Schauben of Appleman Schauben in 1992 in response to the tragic loss of industry lives to AIDS. The organization’s first meeting at the National Stationery Show brought together a cross-section of the industry’s leading publishers, market centers, sales reps, manufacturers and retailers – all willing to convene and work together towards a common goal.  Since that time, Gift for Life has raised more than $5 million for AIDS research, education, treatment and care through nationwide at-market events, cause marketing programs and direct donations.

Each year, Gift for Life hosts events throughout the U.S. benefitting DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. The primary mission of Gift for Life and DIFFA is to eradicate the AIDS pandemic in the United States. With Gift for Life’s help, in 2017 DIFFA granted more than $331,000 to 31 organizations providing HIV/AIDS service and education programs nationwide. For additional information please visit Follow Gift for Life’s efforts via its free e-newsletter, available at

Make plans now to attend Stage 48 in New York City. Individual tickets, which cost $125, include an open bar, dinner buffet, music, dancing and a silent auction. Sponsorships, ranging from $500 through $25,000, also are available. For details, visit or contact Steven Williams at, 212-727-3100.

ABOUT GIFT FOR LIFE and DIFFA: Gift for Life unites the gift and home industries against AIDS with more than $5 million raised since its inception in 1992. In 2008, Gift for Life selected DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS, one of the largest funders of HIV/AIDS service and education programs in the U.S., as its main charity partner. Since its founding in 1984, DIFFA has mobilized the immense resources of the design communities to provide more than $40 million to hundreds of AIDS organizations nationwide. In 2017, DIFFA granted $331,000 to 31 organizations nationwide. More information is available at and at