Elissa Bantug

Elissa Bantug

My fellow team member Julie Thomas raised $13,760 this year alone, in her eleventh Avon Walk.  Julie’s been raising money for breast cancer for almost 20 years now, ever since losing a close friend to the disease.  She approaches the task with gusto, maintaining a donor list of 200 names, including family, friends, colleagues, and all of their friends. Each January through the end of April, she sends a monthly email to her list with a slightly different fundraising message.  After the Avon walk, Julie’s donors receive an email thank-you, a link to a photo album of the walk, and a reminder about the next event.  Julie has raised more than $64,000 for Avon.  It’s a feat that could inspire many, and Julie has created a network of people who feel like they’re an integral part of this mission.

Debby Stewart, our fearless team leader, participates in the Avon walk and says she’s grateful for her own blessings, and the Walk provides the inspiration she needs in her volunteer work with breast cancer patients.  This was Debby’s eighth walk, and she has created an amazing team of walkers and cheerleaders, who have become a noticeable presence in the D.C. Walk.  When I asked Debby why she does this year after year, she said, “I do it for every new patient I meet and for every study that brings us closer to better treatment or even a cure.  I also walk to remember all of the many faces we have lost to this terrible disease.”

In February of this year, we lost a very dear friend and dedicated volunteer, Rosemary Carlson, who supported the Avon Walk for years and created cheers in previous years that inspired us throughout the two-day journey.  This year, our Johns Hopkins Cheering Squad, dressed in pink scrubs and strategically placed along the walk route, carried her message as they stood waiting for us, handing out snacks and wet wipes.  Ahh…the wet wipes.  They seem to come out of nowhere and are almost as important as the band aids.  Wet wipes enable walkers to temporarily remove the sweat, grim, and filth that seems to cover every inch of your body after walking through a city for 12 hours straight.   This is just one of many reasons that makes the volunteers invaluable!

Debby is truly an inspiration to all of our team and brings together an amazing group of walkers and volunteers who support each other along this two-day journey.  Her motivation is to honor her friends, patients, and colleagues—to make meaning of their pain and their deaths in a way that may eventually mitigate others’ losses.

Next...
Part 4: Why I Walk

Previously...
Part 1: Why We Walk
Part 2: Walk the Talk

More on Breast Cancer Survivorship

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