I’ll never forget the fall of 2009, it was the 1st time I witnessed the devastating effect breast cancer has on women of all ages. On September 15 of that year I learned that a high school classmate, Jennifer McHugh Evans, just 33 at the time, had lost her courageous battle to breast cancer. She was a mom of 3 young boys. It broke my heart. It made it all so real to know that this horrific disease, that I had always associated with women much, much older could already be making its mark with women of my generation.
Fast forward nearly 2 years and I find myself hearing more and more stories of “young” women facing the diagnosis of breast cancer. I, as I’m sure all Smart Mamas are, very compelled to do what can be done to fight the disease. The Avon Foundation for Women is “In It To End It,” with the Avon Walks for Breast Cancer, a series of nine events held across the U.S. where thousands of women and men come together to raise awareness and life-saving funds for breast cancer.
Since the walks launched in 2003, the Avon Foundation for Women has raised more than $390 million through the hard work and dedication of thousands of walkers and breast cancer survivors. What a great and compelling way to show our support!
Three walks remain this year:
- Santa Barbara, CA: September 17-18
- New York, NY: October 15-16
- Charlotte, NC: October 22-23
Which one can you join? This inspiring 39 mile, 2 day walk is a great opportunity for moms to unite for a meaningful cause. Maybe do it with friends, cousins, your own mom? Do it to support those who have lost the disease. Do it for those who still battle. Do it for those who have won. For whatever reason, make the effort.
This year Eloise Caggiano is the Program Director, of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series. She is a “my generation” breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed at the age of 33, and just 5 years later she is sharing her story and leading this great cause.
I recently asked Eloise a few questions to help us Smart Mamas find ways to get involved and do our part! Here’s what she had to say:
How can a busy mom who does not live in a “walk city” support Avon Walks for Breast Cancer?
There are lots of ways to support the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.
- Come visit us in another city! Plenty of people travel to an Avon Walk if they don’t have one nearby. It is a great way to see another city, and a fun, but meaningful reason to get away for the weekend. At every one of our nine Walks, we have participants from 30-40 different states! So don’t automatically rule it out if you don’t have a Walk near you. Plenty of moms get the husband or grandparents to watch the kids for the weekend while they join us for a life-changing Avon Walk weekend.
- Make a donation! If traveling to an Avon Walk isn’t possible, show your support by donating to someone who is participating in an Avon Walk, and ask your friends and family to make a donation as well. Since every participant has a fundraising goal, you’ll not only be helping that person, but the donations will also help the countless people who are facing breast cancer get the care they need.
- Buy an Avon Pink Ribbon Product! You can support the cause year-round by purchasing unique Avon Crusade Pink Ribbon products sold by Avon Sales Representatives and at both www.avoncrusade.com and www.avonwalk.org (and keep your eye out for the pink Crusade Denim Jacket which will be available in October!). 100 percent of the net profits from these products are donated to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade which supports breast cancer programs around the world.
How do you describe the feeling of success of accomplishing the physical rigor of the walk while supporting women like yourself who have or are currently battling breast cancer?
The sense of accomplishment for all of our Avon Walk participants is really quite incredible. For some, the physical challenge of walking up to 39.3 miles is an accomplishment they never thought they could achieve! For others, especially those who have never fundraised before, there is such a feeling of pride knowing that the money they raised is going to help people get the breast cancer care they need, regardless of their ability to pay for it and will help researchers continue their quest for a cure. For some, the challenge of completing the Avon Walk is their way to pay tribute to those who are battling breast cancer right now, and you will often here people saying “Sure, I’m exhausted, but what I’m feeling now is nothing compared to what my mom went through with chemo”. The hundreds of breast cancer survivors walking by their sides (some of whom are in the midst of their treatments) are a source of inspiration and a reminder of why we need to keep walking. For others the accomplishment lies in knowing they have done a wonderful thing in memory of someone they’ve lost to this disease. When you learn that someone you love has been diagnosed, you can feel helpless, and for many of those people, participating in an Avon Walk is a way to help, a way to do something and a way to show their support. Whether they walk 9 miles or 39 miles; whether they raise $1,800 or $18,000 — every single Avon Walk participant is making a difference.
How has your understanding of the emotional and physical effects cancer has on a family changed over the years?
When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, it not only affects the patient, but also those around them — their family, friends and colleagues. When I think back to the shock of my diagnosis and the fear and uncertainty I felt at that time, I often think about what it must have been like for my parents at the moment I called them to say, “I have breast cancer.” I am their youngest daughter. They must have been so scared, afraid and worried. I wonder how my sister felt when she couldn’t get on a plane to visit me because she was too far along in her pregnancy to fly – I know she so badly wanted to be there for me. But if I’ve learned anything from all of this, I’ve learned how something good can come out of something bad. My experience with breast cancer has strengthened my relationships with my family and friends. I always knew I was cared for and loved, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect the outpouring of love that I felt then, and still feel from them today. At our Avon Walks, I see sisters walking together in celebration of their mom’s survivorship, I see mothers and daughters walking together, I see men walking for their wives — families and friends all come together to celebrate, support and honor those they love. I’d like to think that every time someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, it raises the awareness for those around them, causing those people become a little more educated and a little more vigilant about their own health.
I hope to inspire at least one Smart Mama or Dada to participate in the Avon Walk. I am certain that the experience will be remarkable.
To learn more and register visit AvonWalk.org.
Smart Pants Mama readers are invited to use discount code WALK1 for $20 off the $1800 registration fee!
After you register, please leave a comment here letting me know. Avon will provide one Smarty Pants Mama reader who is registered to walk the chance to win a Pink Kodak pocket HD Video Camera!