It’s difficult to find someone who isn’t touched by breast cancer. The disease is so widespread, with about 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women in 2012 alone, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Now for the positive news: Breast cancer death rates have been going down—most likely the result of early detection and better treatment—with more than 2.9 million survivors in the U.S. There is no doubt that the many breast cancer awareness organizations, campaigns and individual fundraisers have made a huge impact. Here are the stories of a select few of those ‘real people’ who are making a huge difference in this fight.
Missy Ward, Longwood, Fla.
Fundraises for: Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and The National Breast Cancer Foundation
Why she does it: Over a decade ago, I watched a friend go through the fear, anxiety and pain related to breast cancer treatment—just trying to keep it together with this illness looming over her.Since I couldn’t “fix” her, the only thing I knew how to do was to start fundraising in hopes that one day no one else would be stricken with this horrible disease.
How much she’s raised: To date, I’ve helped raise over $425,000, which has gone to several breast cancer awareness nonprofits.
How she does it: I have participated in many local fundraising events for several years, but in 2007, I founded AffiliateMarketersGiveBack.com. My goal was to use my influence in the industry in which I make my living to raise money to support breast cancer research, treatment, awareness and community programs, and also provide an outlet for people to help themselves by uplifting others.
What’s next: I’m currently participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in New York this October. I’m the captain of Team Affiliate Marketers Give Back. This is our fourth Avon walk and so far, we’ve raised over $81,000—putting us in second place overall.
Barbara M. Rogers, Atlanta, Ga.
Fundraises for: It’s the Journey, Inc.
Why she does it: I donate to numerous causes and started getting active in the Atlanta 2 Day Walk for Breast Cancer in 2007, two years after I had breast cancer. I wanted to get involved with a group that gives back to organizations that are related to breast cancer.
How much she’s raised: In six years, I have raised around $40,000. So far this year, I have raised around $10,500.
How she does it: I send out a donation letter, with a picture of our teams from the previous year, to family, friends and business associates. This year, I also placed the 2 Day collection can at different locations around town (restaurants and where I get my hair cut, nails done, car washed), and arranged a Spirit Night twice at a neighborhood restaurant where they gave me 20 percent of the evening’s profits.
What’s next: The 2 Day event will take place October 6 and 7, and I will be walking 30 miles with my team through the metro-Atlanta area. This past year, I was an advisory board member for the 2 Day, and I hope to be on it again next year.
Karen Gagnier, Bryn Mawr, Penn.
Fundraises for: Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC)
Why she does it: I fundraise because it is necessary. LBBC needs funding in order to continue to offer breast cancer survivors the support they need. I am a survivor, so it is clear that organizations like LBBC are critical, and have seen first-hand the difference LBBC makes in the life of a survivor. I also fundraise for survivors because it was part of my post recovery plan to “give back.”
How much she’s raised: $20,000
How she does it: My sister and I have been able to further the message of “living beyond” and giving back by creating Celebrate Wine.
What’s next: I will more actively promote CELEBRATE wine with many events, where 20 percent of the proceeds go to LBBC.
Barbara Jo Kirshbaum, Upland, Calif.
Fundraises for: Avon Walk for Breast Cancer
Why she does it: I never really thought I liked fundraising and never did any until I started mega walks to raise money for the fight against breast cancer. I have a hope that what the research is finding for this disease will help fight other cancers. My husband died of esophageal cancer. He believed in what I was doing and asked me to keep doing it.
How much she’s raised: $1.47 million since I started doing this in 1998.
How she does it: Most of my fundraising is via personal letters, which has proven tobe very effective. I like writing my fundraising letter and I get excited when I receive a donation!
What’s next: The owner of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory will be doing a fundraiser on my behalf for the month of October. They have several products of which my charity will receive 50 percent of net sales. And in February 2013, I will be sending out my fundraising letter for 2013—I hope to reach $1.5 million early in 2013.
Michele Donahue, Jupiter, Fla.
Fundraises for: Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Why she does it: I am a two-time breast cancer survivor. My husband Bill, who was general manager of the NBC affiliate station in Tulsa, brought Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure there in 1996 because of our running background and my breast cancer experience, and I began volunteering. I am grateful to be able to make a contribution to help the needy in our community, and to be named Race Chair for the Komen South Florida Race for the Curethis year.
How much she’s raised: Over $15,000. My husband and I personally have given between $500 and $1,000 as a race sponsor each year since 1997, in addition to the money I bring in from sponsors and other affiliate events.
How she does it: I raise pledge money through my team, and bring in sponsors each year, including top sponsors like FPL and Ford, who give us big dollars. I also attend and personally pay for other affiliate events every year.When we moved to Jupiter from Tulsa, I immediately became involved with the Komen South Florida Affiliate. Since then, I have served as a Race for the Cure volunteer in the following capacities: a Board member, President Elect, President of the Board of Directors for 2 years, Grant Chair, Chair of the Governance Committee, immediate past president and member of the Board Executive Committee.
What’s next: I am hoping that the Bark for the Cure event on November 3 will recognize the importance that all animals have for people going through challenging life experiences—the unconditional love and comfort they provide help people mentally, if not physically.
Nickolas Seitz, Atlanta, Ga.
Fundraises for: It’s the Journey, Inc.
Why he does it: My family has dealt with breast cancer since 2009, when my mother was diagnosed with the disease. It returned in 2011 and my mother passed away in February this year. Participating in the Atlanta 2 Day Breast Cancer Walk sponsored by It’s the Journey, Inc., started out as an opportunity to actively fight against the disease by raising awareness and education within the Atlanta and Georgia communities. The event is now, for me, the best way I know how to honor my mother and the life she led.
How much he’s raised: Approximately $3,500 between 2011 and 2012.
How he does it: For the past two years, I have created a letter to my friends in all the areas of my life with a personal testimony of my relationship with the disease and my mother. I encourage everyone to donate $5 with the intent of not buying that extra Starbucks, McDonald’s or drink on your night out. It allows me to get the most important people in my life involved in ultimately the most influential person in my life, my mother.
What’s next: The Atlanta 2 Day Breast Cancer Walk will take place on October 6 and 7. I am participating on my mother’s former team name, Country Girls CAN CERvive, with approximately 21 other walkers (raising over $22,000 as a team!).
Debbie Kass, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Fundraises for: Avon Walk for Breast Cancer
Why she does it: I’m blessed that I do not have to work so I throw myself into charities in town. My best friend Roberta is in the fight of her life with stage 3 breast cancer and four kids, and so I have walked daily with her as she battles this insidious disease. I felt helpless and angry at first, and then I decided to change that into unwavering passion and determination to make a difference by raising as much money possible so that we can find a cure, to stop all this suffering.
How much she’s raised: $25,517
How she does it: I networked ourentire town! The story of Roberta’s diagnosis touched everyone’s hearts and not one person said no to me!
What’s next: My passion is finding a cure for kids and adults with cancer—all cancers. I’m co-chairing an event for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (children battling cancer), here in Santa Barbara, which I have been a committee member of for seven years.