Ribbon Report Spotlight

October Spotlight: Leecy Fink

How and why did you become involved with Susan G. Komen VA Blue Ridge?

When I was initially diagnosed with breast cancer, a couple of friends decided to create a team for the 2013 Race For the Cure.  I did not even know the Blue Ridge affiliate existed.  We ended up with two teams, after my husband’s work also established a team.  We had over 100 participants and I was the top fundraiser and had the top fundraising team that year.  The following year, I joined the Board of Directors, but had to quickly step down, when my cancer metastasized in April 2014.  For the last six years, I have co-chaired Lynchburg’s Laugh For the Cure, represented our affiliate at the National Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., spoken at several affiliate events and most recently, chaired the launch of an educational video series for metastatic breast cancer that will debut on October 13, 2019.   I see the importance of our mission every day in my own life and have seen the impact, firsthand, as a patient and advocate for the breast cancer community.

Describe an uplifting moment you experienced during your time with Susan G. Komen VA Blue Ridge.

Crossing the finish line in my very first Race For the Cure is a moment that still brings tears to my eyes.  I was bald and in the depths of chemotherapy.  I wasn’t able to walk the distance but was determined to get out of my wheelchair and cross the finish line with my husband and children.   I have never felt more sure that I was going to survive than I did on that day.

What advice would you give to community members about Susan G. Komen?

Get involved!  Volunteer!  Participate!  The friends I have made through our local affiliate are lifelong friends that I would never know had I not said “Yes” to getting involved!

What keeps you motivated and committed to Susan G. Komen’s mission?

At the very first Pink Promise Luncheon, we were asked to make a promise on a card and the promise was later mailed to us as a reminder.  The promise hung on my fridge for years.  It remains my promise and motivation today.  “To do everything in my power to make sure my children never walk in these shoes.”

August Spotlight: Melanie Wheeler

How and why did you get involved with Susan G. Komen Virginia Blue Ridge?

I became involved because I am a breast cancer survivor and my Mom is a breast cancer survivor.  I wanted to contribute in some way.  When I was being treated for breast cancer, I often thought about what a hardship it would be to have to worry about financial issues during such a difficult time.  When you are fighting for your life the last thing you need to do is worry and increase stress levels.  At the time I became involved with Komen, my Mom was alive and cancer free.  But in late 2016 breast cancer returned and took her life in 2017.   This made me want to do more, so no more families have to suffer the loss of a loved one to this horrible disease.

What was the inspiration behind your event More Than Pink Drinks & Links?

My mother is the inspiration behind this event.  I know firsthand what it is like to be a patient and to be treated for breast cancer and I know firsthand how devastating it is to lose a loved one to this disease.  Our family will never be the same since our Mom is gone.

What do you want people to know about More Than Pink Drinks & Links?

-More than Pink Drinks and Links is comprised of two separate events.  A Pink Party will be held on 8/3 at Waterfront Golf and Country Club, there is live music, heavy hors d oeuvres, extensive silent auction, live auction, and a 50/50 golf ball drop.  This is the second year for this event and we raised more than 30,000 dollars for the Blue Ridge Affiliate.  I am very proud of that and very proud of the team of people that put this all together.  It was amazing to be a part of it.

-The Golf event will be held on Monday 8/5/2019.  Golfers will experience, Dan Boever, former senior long drive champion and golf entertainer, followed by a scramble golf tournament played at the beautiful Waterfront Golf and Country Club.  A special luncheon will be held after the tournament including Dan Boever.  There will be excellent tee favors provided to each play along with awards.   This is the first year for this event.

Describe an uplifting moment you have had while being involved with Komen.

When my mother passed away, I realized how important it is to work to better our world.  I realized how dedicated our board of directors is and how dedicated our staff is to eradicating breast cancer and supporting breast cancer patients that are in need.  It was reassuring to be part of that, part of something bigger and important.

What keeps you motivated and committed to Susan G. Komen’s mission?

Nearly every day I learn about another family’s struggle with breast cancer and I know that my job is not done and I have to remember that there are others that need support and help and encouragement.  It keeps me involved.

July Spotlight: Christa Brady & Andrea Collins

How and why did you decide to sign up for our 15 mile walk, Komen on the Creeper?

For us, the decision to be part of the inaugural Komen on the Creeper was a no-brainer!  We jumped at the chance to spend some quality “sister-time” together on the Trail, all the while supporting a cause that is very near and dear to our family. It also did not hurt that the event was being held in Abingdon, where our parents currently reside.  When you have the opportunity to support a tremendous cause, experience a great outdoor adventure, and spend time with your family all at the same time; you do just that!  I might also mention that the inaugural Walk occurred just at my 10-year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis.J

Describe an uplifting moment you each experienced last year while doing Komen on the Creeper?

Wow!  It is difficult to narrow down to one moment as the entire experience was truly uplifting.  First, there was the fundraising challenge of which sister could raise the most money. (You know, a little sisterly competition is a good thing, especially when it comes to such a great cause.)  Then there was the drive down together to Abingdon, where we were greeted by smiling faces of the on-site registration team at the Heartwood center.  Their enthusiasm was contagious, and that energy carried us through to the morning of the Walk and the special Opening ceremony.  Side note, if you have never experienced the Opening Ceremony of a Komen event, you should know one thing.  Expect chills (electricity) to run through your body.   Once on the Trail, it was the scenery, the conversations, the people, the laughter, Nature’s silence, the rain, the pink ponchos….it was all of that that kept us lifted. And, of course, this best feeling of the day may have been making it the finish line, walking under the balloon arch to the other side, looking at each other and those around us and saying “WE DID IT!” And, yes, we celebrated our successful adventure by sharing a sisterly Mimosa toast!

What advice would you give to people considering doing this year’s event?

Do it!  Do not doubt yourself in any aspect of the event.  Not the fundraising, not the 15-mile Trail, nothing.  Grab a friend or family member, perhaps someone you have not connected with in a long time, form a team, or even go at it on your own.  (You’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals, so you’re never really alone in this type of event.)  Utilize social media to promote your fundraising cause.  Do train for the physical aspect of the walk by doing practice trail walks.  Wear layers on the day of the Walk.  Bring a back-pack for your water bottle, any snacks, and your phone or camera.  Don’t hit the trail without a camera, LOL!  Most importantly, prepare to be “wowed” and experience a truly moving experience and sense of accomplishment.

What keeps you motivated and committed to Susan G. Komen’s mission?

For Andrea and me, it is very personal.  When I was 5 years-old, and one month prior to Andrea’s birth, our grandmother (our Dad’s mom) lost her battle to breast cancer.  She did not get to see her 50th birthday. Andrea never got to meet her.  That was forty years ago this year.  The level of research, funding, screenings, and treatments and options were nowhere near the advanced levels of today. It is organizations such as that of Susan G. Komen that have made significant and life-saving advancements in breast cancer research over the past many, many years.  Having been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 34, and now celebrating my 10-year remission, I can truly attest to the results of SGK’s mission.   If not for their work and dedication to this cause, well, I think you already know how may story may could have ended.  Literally.


April Spotlight: H.B. Hunter

How and why did you become involved with Susan G. Komen VA Blue Ridge?

Hilary Thompson was a 2018 BigWig.  I noticed the commitment she made to the cause.  When she asked me to consider being a BigWig in 2019 I was caught off guard.  I thought and prayed about it for a couple weeks and had already made up my mind to participate before going to the informational meeting.  I hadn’t let Hilary in on my intentions prior to the meeting.  As I’ve shared in my BigWig profile, my mother is a breast cancer survivor.  Shortly after learning of my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis in 2010, I learned that my father-in-law had been diagnosed with bladder cancer.  He lost his battle with cancer in November 2013.  For my wife, Danielle, and me to each have a parent battling cancer was horrifying.  Watching Danielle lose her father was gut wrenching.

I strongly believe that when someone asks for help, then thats what you do.  Hilary and the folks at Susan G. Komen VA Blue Ridge asked me to help, and here I am.

Describe an uplifting moment you experienced during your time with Susan G. Komen VA Blue Ridge.

Danielle and I have two children, Olivia who is seven and Joseph who is four.  I’ve had several uplifting moment with them during the BigWig Campaign; however, two come to mind.  One afternoon while driving home with Olivia, she asked me about breast cancer out of the blue.  We talked for a few minutes about statistics such.  As the conversation was winding down, she said, “Dad, I hope you help find a cure for breast cancer before I’m an adult so I don’t die from it.”  Talk about hitting me right in the feels.  At that moment, I knew without a shred of doubt why I was doing this.

Joseph attends Elizabeth’s Early Learning Center (EELC) in Lynchburg, VA.  The folks at EELC, wholeheartedly embraced my BigWig campaign.  Joseph was a little unsure of me wearing the wig into preschool with him the first day, but as soon as he saw the other kids’ responses, he was all for it.  I’ve worn the wig for every pickup and drop off since February 28th.  Jane Gerdy, the executive director at EELC, asked me they could be involved, so she and I put together a plan where I would come read to the two oldest classes while sporting my pink wig.  I read “The Book with No Pictures” and “I Stink” to both classes and had a grand time.  The office staff at EELC put together a pink donation box that stayed at the preschool for a week.  Children, and I’m sure a few parents, raided their piggy banks to support my campaign to the tune of $187!

Every day during this BigWig Campaign, I’ve been thoroughly humbled by the community of people around me.  I could not imagine the outpouring of support and stories that I’d get when this campaign started.

What advice would you give to community members about Susan G. Komen?

The Susan G. Komen organization is committed to reducing the impact of breast cancer.  They’re all in!  Everyone I know has been impacted by breast cancer.  Take the time and make the effort to learn about the Komen organization and learn how you can help.  Say yes when someone asks for your help.

What keeps you motivated and committed to Susan G. Komen’s mission?

Looking my daughter in the eye and talking to her about breast cancer has been the best motivation I could have.  I want to help bring an end to this disease.

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