It was a cold, Tuesday evening. No one was quite sure what to expect, but one by one, cars pulled up to the curb. They parked in front of the beautiful brick house and made their way to the door. Slowly, the house filled with people, and the laughter and conversation were animated as old friends and colleagues shared hugs and squeals of delight in seeing one another. The air was thick with stories and memories, eager to be shared. Chairs were brought in from other rooms, and a group of 14 sat in a circle, mostly women, but a couple of men. And the reminiscing began…
Twenty years ago, in 1998, Brooke Burr visited Washington, D.C. and participated in her first Komen Race for the Cure. She walked in honor of her friend, Pam Versaggi, who was in treatment for breast cancer. The experience was life-changing. She returned to Winston-Salem to share the experience with her friend Pam and to encourage her to participate in the National Race for the Cure.
The founding survivor on the board, Pam recalls her first experience with a Komen race as being life-changing. She walked with women who were survivors. Though she’d been surrounded by family and friends throughout her cancer journey, she finally realized she wasn’t alone. She was one of many who fought the same fight; many of whom who had been victorious over it.
Together, Brooke and Pam saw hope. Courage. Tenacity. Strength. Beauty. And fierce determination. With their own brand of fierce determination. They found others who saw the potential benefits of bringing a Komen Race for the Cure to Winston-Salem. These are the founding heroes of the Northwest North Carolina affiliate of Komen.
Well known for her community advocacy efforts and volunteer work, Cindy was (at the time) the President of the Junior League. She was in a great position to help recruit numerous volunteers. Cindy was a tremendous resource for the budding Komen board and a tireless leader for helping get the first race started.
Susan King DeRamus
There are movers and shakers. And then, there’s Susan King DeRumas. When others see obstacles, Susan sees opportunities. It was her persistent vision that brought two local healthcare powerhouses under one roof for a common goal.
Taking a pause mid-career is never an easy decision for a young mom, but Carolyn was doing just that. Her friend Cindy Christopher called her to share the news of the Komen race coming to Winston-Salem. The concept struck both a compassionate and philanthropic chord for Carolyn, who jumped in with both feet.
Danna was still recovering from her own bilateral mastectomy when she got a call from Cindy Christopher, asking her to participate. One of the first two survivors on the board, Danna brought a personal, first-hand perspective to the group.
In a moment that could have only been orchestrated by God Himself, Cindy was presented with the opportunity to help support Komen just as she was grieving the loss of a close friend who died from breast cancer. From the moment the concept of the Komen race was presented to her, she felt God giving her a nudge to be an advocate for the cause.
Michelle’s curiosity was piqued when she noticed a group of women regularly meeting at the YWCA. Intrigued, she began to ask around. Who were these women? What were they doing? When she learned about their plans to bring a Komen Race to Winston-Salem, she knew this was a group she had to be a part of.
A Komen race consultant from Dallas, Texas, whose heart was touched by the ladies of the first Komen board. He committed to helping support the first race. With his guidance and mentorship, this self-organized team-with-a-vision pulled together a first race that was so memorable, it is still celebrated 20 years later.
An honorable mention because Edith wasn’t an original board member. She wasn’t even a board member at all. But her $50,000 donation was the first seed money donated to Komen of Northwest North Carolina. It was her support of the vision that began the life-changing work that has touched countless lives in our community.
These are some of the leaders that make up the foundation of Komen of Northwest North Carolina. This is the power of shared vision. Commitment. Determination. Teamwork. Perseverance. Friendship. And one more thing…
The people named come from different backgrounds, and they have different stories. But their common denominator in the successful launch of Komen Northwest North Carolina was love. Whether love for a specific individual or love for their fellow humans and a heartfelt desire to help support those going through such an ordeal, these are people for whom the cause has never diminished.
These are people of action. Words weren’t enough. They said they were going to, and they did. They gathered followers and participants. They recruited sponsors. They raised money. They raised awareness. They identified a need. They created a shared goal and a common cause. Their contagious enthusiasm was met with extraordinary results.
In fact, the results of their first collaborative effort included 4,500+ participants and a staggering $367,000 in donations. Raised on a rainy, cold, dreary day, lit up with pink t-shirts and smiling faces of survivors and supporters.
Their story is remarkable. The chain reaction has had an untold reach in our community.
For 20 years, Komen has existed in Winston-Salem (and grown to service 22 counties) because of the people who believed a race in our community was possible. Could it have happened without them? Sure. But with the kind of response that still brings a sparkle to eyes that are bright with excitement? Who knows? This is a success story of the perfect mix of talent and passion.
It’s a success story poised to re-write itself. With the founding Komen board members joining forces with the existing board, as well as new executive director, Michael McKinney, 2018 promises to be a year of renewed commitment to a cause for whom a cure is inevitable…because with champions like these, how can it not be?
Are you ready to join the race?
Learn about all the benefits offered by Komen Northwest North Carolina by visiting them online at KomenNorthwestNC.org. Mark your calendar for May 5th and consider joining “The Pink Ladies of Forsyth Magazines,” where we race for the cure in honor of our two leaders – publishers and survivors, Keela Johnson and Robin Bralley.