Avon Walk for Breast Cancer: Eloise Reports from San Francisco

July 14, 2014

The red eye flight back from the west coast is a doozy, but I couldn’t wait to share my thoughts from the Avon Walk San Francisco! Another fantastic weekend!

When you are walking for 39.3 miles, you are definitely tracking your progress along the way. While these markers serve an incredibly useful function (how far to the next port-a-potty?!), they also serve as important milestones for Walkers who feel a true sense of accomplishment as they pass each one. Many of them stop at each and every mile marker (all 39 of them!) to take a photo – proof that they did indeed log these miles themselves!

2 Miles Down! This Walker may have just begun, but she is tracking every mile with a smile!

Every Avon Crew member receives a shirt to wear on event, Walkers and Crew members also get a shirt after crossing the finish line, and some earn additional shirts for achieving certain fundraising milestones. For those participants who join us year after year, you can end up with an awful lot of Avon Walk shirts! You could save them, donate them, use then for rags (gasp!), or if you are craftsy and creative like longtime Crew member Jill Beasley, you could make an awesome quilt out of them! Jill was crewing this weekend at one of our Rest Stops and brought some of her great handmade quilts for tired Walkers to sit on and relax for a few minutes before heading back out on the route. Now that’s a clever use of Avon Walk shirts!

Our clever Crew member Jill sits proudly on her quilt made of Avon Walk t-shirts.

We had more than 235 breast cancer survivors with us this weekend – always a beautiful and moving sight to see them all parade into the Closing Ceremony waving their white pom pons. I had the privilege of meeting many of them throughout the weekend – one of the things I enjoy most at each Avon Walk! One thing we all share, even if we don’t talk about it out loud is a fear of our cancer coming back – a reoccurrence. I do my best to keep those worries at bay, but they’re there and every now and then, especially when I’m due for a test or a scan of some sort, that fear gives me a little nudge and reminds me of what could be. Seeing metastatic breast cancer survivor and five-time Avon Walker Lis Fuchs this weekend reminded me of what could be. Lis is truly an incredible woman. She shared her story of survival on our Avon Walk stage several years ago letting us know that despite a few years of success, the cancer had spread to her bones. This weekend, this same energetic blonde woman with glowing skin and rosy cheeks who looks like she just got back from a day at the beach, got up in front of our participants during our Saturday evening program and told us that the cancer had now spread to her liver. Without a quiver in her voice or a tear in her eye, she spoke so eloquently about her disease, about her hope for the future and explained that her team name is Team 4Ever, because she wants metastatic breast cancer to become a 4Ever treatable disease, so women like her can live long happy lives. Her proud and handsome sons were part of her team this weekend and are clearly a source of strength for her. While Lis’ team had raised an impressive $95,000 as of Saturday, they were not satisfied with that and pledged to reach $100,000 by the time they crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday! They Facebooked and texted and emailed their hearts out and I’m thrilled to report that they did it!

The Avon Foundation is leading the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance – a collaboration of 26 cancer and advocacy organizations who are committed to helping women like Lis (pictured above sharing her story with a local San Francisco TV Station) have hope for a longer, better future.

At our Closing Ceremony each of our beneficiaries gets a chance to personally thank the Walkers and Crew for their support. Our friends at San Francisco General Hospital, home of the Avon Breast Cancer Center of Excellence, say thanks in an additional way. They host a great cheering station near the scenic Palace of Fine Arts with live music, tons of cheering and best of all, the Avon Foundation-funded mobile mammography van! The Walkers love the burst of energy as they round the corner and are so proud to see the van up close and personal, knowing that their donations helped make that van possible. For details on all of the amazing beneficiaries who received grants at the Avon Walk San Fran, click here.

Avon Walk beneficiaries, like SGFH, are so thankful for the funding they receive from the Avon Foundation. Being at the Walk gives them a chance to thank the Walkers

If you’re thinking about joining the Avon Walk, we’ve got three more this year and it’s definitely not too late to register! If you’ve ever wanted to go to Santa Barbara (Sept 6-7), New York City (Oct 18-19), or Charlotte (Oct 26-27), the Avon Walk is a fantastic way to see a new city, or to revisit your own! http://www.avonwalk.org/about/cities-dates.html Join us – you won’t regret it!

Until then, enjoy the rest of your summer!

In it to end it,
Eloise.


Avon Walk for Breast Cancer: Eloise Reports from Chicago

June 6, 2014

I often tell people that the Avon Walk is a life-changing experience. And I wouldn’t say that if it I didn’t believe it. I’ve met so many people who have proven this statement true. From a young woman who finally began to embrace her survivorship during the Walk weekend, to a grieving husband who finds comfort and purpose in his Avon Walk participation, and even a reformed couch potato who never thought she could walk so many miles – there are so many incredible stories of transformation and inspiration! But this past weekend at our Avon Walk Chicago, one of our participants had a different kind of life-changing experience – she got engaged! As two-time Avon Walker Cassie Newton crossed the finish line on Sunday, her boyfriend Ernie greeted her down on one knee, with an engagement ring and a proposal! Congratulations to both of them!

"She said yes! While this is not our first Avon Walk proposal, we get so excited every time it happens! All the best to Cassie and Ernie!"

We work hard year-round to spread the word about the Avon Walk to get more people to walk, and also to help donors understand what we fund and why they should donate to their friends and family members who walk. One of the ways we do this is by working with local media so I’m happy to report that the Chicago media loved us! Not only did we get a great article in the Chicago Sun Times leading up to the weekend, but EVERY local TV station came out on Saturday to cover our event – which is incredible! I was trying to squeeze in as many miles as I could on the route in between TV interviews. You can check out some of them here: WBBM-TV (CBS), WLS-TV (ABC), and WGN-TV (CW).

"With so many TV stations interested, we had to divide and conquer the interviews. Here, Avon Foundation President Carol Kurzig is interviewed by WLFD-TV (FOX) letting everyone know about the $4.7 million raised just last weekend!"

When I was diagnosed, I was only 33 years old and I didn’t know anyone my age who had gone through breast cancer. While I felt incredibly supported by friends and family, I felt disconnected to the survivors I met because they were quite a bit older than me and in different phases of their lives. This weekend I met three wonderful women who were diagnosed in their 30s, just like me. Our survivor speaker Trish Russo was only 30 when she was diagnosed and has gone on to have not one, but two brain tumors removed. She celebrated her 33rd birthday with us on Sunday and is making a documentary out of her breast cancer journey. Twins Kelly McCarthy and Kristen Maurer were just 34 years-old when they got the news, diagnosed just within months of each other (see the Chicago Sun Times article above for more on their story). Each of their stories are very unique, yet all reveal such strength, determination and love. Like all of the survivors who join us at each of the Avon Walks, they are an inspiration and a daily reminder of why we keep walking and working to end this disease.

While the majority of the funds raised at the Avon Walk Chicago will stay in the Chicagoland area (click here to see a list of grants presented), the reach of the Avon Foundation’s work is truly global. This past weekend in conjunction with the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Annual Meeting, the largest oncology conference in the world, the Foundation kicked off our second Avon Global Breast Cancer Clinical Scholars program. We brought together 23 doctors from 14 different countries for 4-8 weeks of study at 12 Avon Foundation-funded U.S. breast cancer centers. They joined us for the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, and we gave them a big Avon Walk welcome!

"The 2nd class of Avon Breast Cancer Global Scholars at the Avon Walk Chicago. In some cases they are the only breast cancer specialist in their country, so what they learn through our Global Scholars program will enable them to save more lives at home."

It was another great Avon Walk weekend and I’m looking forward to our San Francisco Walk on July 12-13! Golden Gate Bridge, here we come!

In it to end it,
Eloise.

"Fun bonus pic: In the Wellness Village at each Avon Walk we have a variety of activities for our participants. For the first time this season we had a fun photo booth, compliments of one of our Official Sponsors, Tiger Balm. The Avon Foundation team just couldn’t resist taking a group shot! Left to right beside me are my fellow colleagues: Karyn Margolis, Carol Kurzig, and JoAnne Fairchild."


Avon Walk for Breast Cancer: Eloise reports from Boston

May 19, 2014

At each Avon Walk, I meet a lot of survivors and they are all incredibly special, strong, and inspiring people with whom I have an instant connection. But this weekend at the Avon Walk Boston, I met a survivor whose story moved me in a whole new way. Pete Devereaux is a “guy’s guy.” He was in the Marine Corps. He is also a former boxer, a long distance runner, a machinist, a husband, a father… and a six-year breast cancer survivor.

Pete was completely blindsided by his diagnosis. He had no idea that men could get breast cancer and it never occurred to him that the lump he felt could be anything more than a simple cyst. Pete’s had a tough go of it – a mastectomy and 14 months of chemo and radiation, and later the realization that the cancer had spread to his spine. Despite all of this, he lives his life with such hope and purpose, and has an impressively positive outlook. With the tremendous love and support from his family and friends, including a fun sense of humor they all seem to share, Pete forges ahead determined to use his story to help others. And it seems this “guy’s guy” has found a new found love for the color pink. I will carry Pete’s story with me and hope that his courage and optimism will lift my spirit whenever I need it.

"Pete’s story of survival was a highlight of the weekend and inspired so many of our participants. I got to spend a little extra time with Pete when we did a TV interview together on Friday morning (see clip here)."

The Avon Walk Boston got off to a soggy start. Very soggy. As our dedicated Walkers, volunteers and staff gathered for the Opening Ceremony at the crack of dawn on Saturday, the rain was falling hard! Dressed in rain ponchos, garbage bags, and all sorts of outfits to ward off the rain, they stood side-by-side in the downpour as our Opening Ceremony speakers shared their stories and celebrated our reasons for joining together for the weekend. Despite the deluge, all were in good spirits and set off on the route ready to tackle their personal Avon Walk challenge. Thankfully, Mother Nature took pity on us and things began to brighten up and dry out after a couple of hours of walking and it turned out to be a gorgeous weekend!

"When in doubt, we bring our own sunshine! This fantastic Avon supporter greeted Walkers with big smiles and cheers as we walked our first few miles in the rain."

Our Boston walk route takes us past many hospitals and medical schools, some of which are beneficiaries of Avon Walk funds. It’s so rewarding to pass by the impressive facilities as we walk, knowing that we help make some of the work that goes on inside those buildings possible and to see them on our Closing Ceremony stage the next day receiving grants made possible by our Walkers and Crew. That’s pretty cool!

"All of our eight beneficiaries joined us on stage to celebrate the $3.9 million raised at the Avon Walk Boston!"

One perk for Boston Avon Walkers is our fantastic Wellness Village at the Reebok World Headquarters campus in Canton, Mass. As a nine-year partner and National Sponsor of the Avon Walk, Reebok is an incredible host! Their support is also evident in their 34-person walking team and the more than $88,000 raised by Team Reebok, our #2 top fundraising team this year!

"Gold medal support for the Avon Walk Boston! Reebok partner and Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Aly Raisman took time to talk to Walkers and the media at the Wellness Village. Aly’s aunt is a survivor, so it’s a cause that is very close to her heart as well. Photo Credit: Getty Images."

We had two teams of Avon folks with us this weekend. A local team led by Avon Representative and eight-time Avon Walker Ann Marie Boucher, and a travelling team from Avon Suffern led by Associates Lisa Lamberty and Amanda Stagg. Thank you Team Avon!

"Team Avon Suffern has traveled to every Avon Walk city over the years. They are all so dedicated that even though a recent accident knocked team captain Lisa Lamberty off her feet, it couldn’t keep her from getting to Boston to support her team!"

It’s a busy time for us – three Avon Walks in five weeks! We’re off to Chicago next on May 31-June 1.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

In it to end it,
Eloise.

"Fun bonus pic: Although Harvard is not one of our beneficiaries, I couldn’t resist stopping along the route to take this picture of myself outside Harvard Medical School. This is for sure the CLOSEST I’ll ever get to going to Harvard!"


Avon Walk for Breast Cancer: Eloise Reports from Washington D.C.

May. 07, 2014

I just got back from our Washington, D.C. Avon Walk and it was a fantastic weekend. We lucked out with perfect weather and D.C. provides us with an incredible backdrop for our event, enabling us to show our Walkers some pretty iconic sights like the Jefferson Memorial, the MLK Jr. Memorial, the White House, the beautiful streets of Georgetown… and so much more!

We start and finish the Avon Walk DC right at the base of the Washington Monument! What a way to see the inspiring sights of our nation’s capital!

I’ve talked about the Avon Walk Youth Crew before, but these incredible kids deserve a special shout out this time because they just reached an impressive milestone! Since the Youth Crew program began in 2007, these dedicated kids (ages 10-16) across the country have raised $1 million! How spectacular is that? And it was so amazing to find out that in D.C., we had eight former Youth Crew members join us as Avon Walkers (now that they are old enough to participate as adults). We love that they got hooked on the Avon Walk as kids, and have continued their participation and support of our event as adults!

Million dollar smiles! Congrats to the Avon Walk Youth Crew program. $1 million raised!

Speaking of dedication, we give a round of applause to our colleagues from Avon Springdale who travelled from Ohio to Washington DC to walk with us! We had a local Team Avon as well, led by Avon Representative Lisa Baukman. The support from Avon Representatives and Associates means so much to us.

Avon Associates and Representatives join us for a Team Avon photo bright and early Saturday morning at Opening Ceremony.

The Avon Walk Washington, D.C. is a special one for me because my relatives Walk and Crew the event. So while I’m working and walking, I also get to sneak in a little family time! Cheers to my aunt and cousins who ran Rest Stop 1 with a star-studded Hollywood theme, and my cousin who served as the “caboose” patrolling the end of the route to make sure we left no walker behind!

Feeling like a celebrity in front of the Hollywood sign with my fun relatives at their very creative Avon Walk rest stop! Each Crew team decorates their stop with a theme of their choice – I’ve seen everything from pirates to Hawaiian luaus to pajama parties and more – love our Crew and their creativity!

How do you like the sound of $4.5 million? It sounds pretty good to us! That’s what the Walkers and Crew of Washington D.C. raised! And the eight beneficiaries who accepted grants on stage told the crowd at Closing Ceremony how much important work will be done with their donations. From huge cancer centers like Johns Hopkins University (home of the Avon Breast Cancer Center of Excellence) to community organizations like Food & Friends who deliver nutritious meals to patients and their families, the beneficiaries will put the funds to good use immediately.

$4.5 million raised in just one weekend – these beneficiaries will do great things with the Walk donations!

Next stop: Boston!
In it to end it,
Eloise.

Bonus photo: I spotted these two cuties at our Wellness Village and couldn’t resist snapping a photo! Future Avon Walkers in the making!


Avon Walk: Eloise Reports from Houston

Apr. 13, 2014

On April 12-13 we kicked off our 2014 Avon Walk season at Walk #1 of eight in Houston. After a long winter break, I was eager to lace up my Reeboks and log some miles! It was a terrific weekend filled with inspiration, celebration, a few tears, and tons of special stories. After a brutal New York City winter, it felt extra nice to be in the sunshine worrying about whether I applied enough sunblock – even though Houston’s humidity has its very own challenges (it’s all about the hair!)

At every Avon Walk, a local survivor tells his/her story during our Closing Ceremony. Dana Clark is a very special woman with a big heart and a big smile. Despite all that she’s been through, she hasn’t let her diagnosis of breast cancer at the young age of 32 get her down. Dana’s diagnosis and treatment were filled with challenges – a double mastectomy, complications with her reconstructive surgery, a hysterectomy, a collapsed lung, and to top it off, she also discovered that she is allergic to narcotic pain killers (about which she jokes “the only good part of surgery is the drugs you get afterward… and I couldn’t even enjoy that!”). But she is determined to use her story to help others and to fulfill her dream of becoming a mom, no matter what it takes. It was a true pleasure to get about seven hugs from her over the course of the weekend.

My fellow survivor, Dana!

We had two fantastic teams of Avon Representatives and Associates in Houston. The Avon Crusaders, led by DSM Teresa Macias, have been at every Houston Walk since the beginning and were again among the top 10 teams, with 40 members raising more than $36,400! And we had some intrepid Avon Associates who traveled from Suffern to be part of the Houston Walk this year, led by Michele Duggan and her husband. They have always been great supporters of Team Avon, and we’re proud to say that they have now completed a walk in every Avon Walk city!

For the seventh year in a row, the Avon Crusaders brought their Avon pride to our Houston Walk.

I also spent some time walking and talking with some of the Crusaders for the Cure. The 50+ members of the Crusaders team are employees of the Texas company, Municipal & Operations Consulting. And more than 20 of those team walkers were men, including the company’s proud CEO and president, Lonnie Wright. In 2014, this great team completed their fourth Houston Walk and were the #1 fundraising team, with a whopping $85,000+ in donations. Thank you Crusaders!

With 1,000 participants and more than $2 million raised, Houston provided a great kick-off to the Avon Walk season. At our Closing Ceremony, grants were presented to 10 wonderful organizations that are leading the fight against breast cancer in the Houston area. To learn more, click here. Each beneficiary had the chance to thank the Walkers and Crew personally, which is a new feature to our Ceremony. Our participants and our beneficiaries really loved hearing from the researchers and doctors and navigators who are doing this important work.

Dr. Nirvath from Baylor College of Medicine accepts grant on stage at the 2014 Houston Walk. Dr. Nirvath was also the Avon Walk Medical Director in Houston, who led an all-volunteer medical crew to keep Walkers healthy all weekend.

We’re heading to Washington DC in just a few weeks. I’ll report back then, and after each of the eight Avon Walks this year. As always, if you’ve got a question about the Avon Walk, please reach out to me directly, anytime.

In it to end it –
Eloise

Fun bonus photo: Every Avon Walk is a great tour of the city! Our Houston route took us past the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall, a multi-story sculptural fountain designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect, Philip Johnson. But to me, the most impressive thing here is the air the woman on the right is getting – after 14 miles of walking! Way to go!


Avon Walk for Breast Cancer Program Director Eloise Caggiano


Eloise Caggiano is the program director for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and a eight-year breast cancer survivor. Here, she shares her tales from the trails.


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