Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What I'm reading now

The best thing about travel, I get to read almost as much as I want! Well, almost...

What do you read when you fly? Here's my newest book, ready for me to dive right in.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The little fundraiser that could

Talk about inspiring - While preparing for Skate for Hope last month, one little girl started selling lemonade and gift baskets to help raise funds for breast cancer research. She ended up raising $800! (Read more about her here.) Now she's going to be on the Ellen DeGeneres Show's special Breast Cancer Awareness Show on Wednesday, October 1. Be sure to tune in and cheer Katie on! (Check the show's website for times in your area.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Coming full circle

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND - Many years ago, two amazing women made a promise which has changed so many of our lives for the better. Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller started the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer because they were so moved by the struggle that their friend Mary Sloan endured during her breast cancer journey they knew they had to do something. When Mary lost her battle, their passion to find a cure fueled the start of this remarkable foundation. It is with great honor that I am here today and feel the full impact of the meaning of this morning. We gathered on Saturday morning to walk; to take a simple stroll in the rain to raise money for research. Research which saved my life, and the life of my son, and countless of lives yet to come. Research that will help our daughters have a future free of this insidious disease.

These ladies, the beautiful mid-atlantic sales consultants for
Vera Bradley, are standing in the exact territory in which Mary Sloan lived and worked. We thank you, Barb and Pat, for starting us on this path. Your efforts and your love for Mary have given us all something to be proud of. We are reaching for the stars, but we can only do so because you have lifted us all so high.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Foundation on the Road and farm implements

What's the deal with us and tractors this year?

Not your typical party!

PRINCE FREDERICK, MARYLAND - Nothing was standard last evening, not one element. First, the hostesses (girls from The Lemon Drop What Not Shop) are amazing. Beautiful, fun, so full of excitement about their event, just great to be around. Second, the venue was unique to say the least. The party was held at an old barn in a wonderful historic setting (A naval battle during the Revolutionary War occurred on this property! I know, it made me happy too. Everyone who loves history, raise your hands!). Such an unusual spot for a breast cancer fund raising dinner to be sure. Finally, it was the party itself that completed the special night. There was a great band, amazing food, an actual vat of margaritas, and just wonderful people who came out in spite of the rain. And all the cowgirls just danced the night away.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jorgina and team for hosting this sweet and memorable evening. I can say with great confidence that I will probably never again speak to a group wearing red cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, but what fun it was!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Coolest Starbucks ever!

At the historic Maryland Inn...

...that must be where george and martha got their coffee....

Raining for the end of the trail...

...but we still keep driving! We arrived at our hotel around 11 pm.

Shoes soothe the soul

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - We are rapidly closing in on the end of the Hope Trail. We had quite a long trip, but nothing makes a girl happier than a shoe store. (Especially a nice big one with great brands and sale tags!:) They also carry bags and accessories, and the Vera Bradley section at Saxon Shoes is also quite impressive, a sight to behold really.

In spite of an all-day rainstorm, people still came to the event. One sweet little peanut stopped by to give me a donation: $0.12. It’s what she had left after buying her new shoes she said. I offered her a cookie and she didn’t take it, instead she just wanted a tiny tomato! As I explained when I was speaking to the group, she is who we are here for. We do what we do for that little girl and all of our little girls. It’s all about them and their cancer-free futures. May she enjoy her tomatoes during her long, long healthy life!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just a little insight from the road

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - This is what I see while we are driving along on our quest. Isn’t Virginia breathtaking?

This is Donna Watson, queen of the road. She is coming along with me along the whole Hope Trail and I totally love her. She is just as passionate about this Foundation and finding a cure as I am; more about her later, though. She deserves a whole entry on her own, and will get it!

This is Donna’s car. The front magnet flew off. It wasn’t strong enough. Drat!

These are the shoes I wear, a lot. Aren't they cute? Please keep your eyes open and let me know when you see more pink shoes because these are wearing out. I'm a size 8.5 – no cracks about big feet in the comments section, please!

Storytime and Good Night

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - While I am meeting spectacular, amazing people out here on the road, I am away from the most important people in the world – my kids. I’ve always read bedtime stories to my babies and still do. So before leaving for the Hope Trail, I bought a few new books and made copies. I call them every night and put them on speaker phone. I read, they listen and follow along, turning the pages with me as we go. Honestly, it probably is more for my benefit then theirs, but I cherish these moments anyway. ;)


My kids

Up the creek!

Two stores, two towns, one fun set of owners (and crew!). Michael and Alex have two locations of their store Steger Creek, which is named after a lovely creek on Michael’s family’s historic property here in Virginia. There are commissioned paintings of the property hanging in both stores - it’s like looking at the backyard of heaven, really! The events held at the two stores were very successful. Light lunches were served from several different locations in town. Local cancer centers were there to answer any and all questions, which was such a great idea.

Steger Creek in Roanoke

Steger Creek in Forest

At both stores, the containers for the prize drawings were so full, they had to dump the entries into a big Vera Bradley Miller bag to pull the winners names! The prizes were all so beautiful, too. There were several HUGE gift baskets from the Barefoot Contessa and there was an amazing floor-length evening gown from the Columns, a local dress shop.

The Blue Ballgown

Alex has promised me that she will go to Vera Bradley’s Spring 2009 Premiere event in Orlando next month. So if you see here there, I would encourage all of you to ask her about this amazing event (and give her a big hug, she likes that kinda thing).

Alex & Michael and Me at the Roanoke location

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Delta, Delta, Delta!

Be sure to tune into (or Tivo!) the Late Show with David Letterman tonight to watch top-selling Australian musical artist Delta Goodrem perform her hit single "In This Life." This 23-year-old is amazing and she'll be singing at the Foundation's Tickled Pink event next week!

Her debut album in the U.S., Delta, topped the charts when it came out in July. There's a beautiful song on it called "Possessionless" that talks of how chemotherapy taught her what¹s important in life. (She was diagnosed and treated for Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2003.) She's done a lot to help raise funds and awareness for cancer research. (Not only is she a survivor, her mom and aunt are, too.)

I'll be back home in time for Tickled Pink and am so excited to meet her! Watch Delta tonight and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Haunted House

This is the hotel I'm staying at in Virginia. Supposedly it's haunted!

'Morning News

ROANOKE, VIRGINIA - What's the deal with this Hope Trail and early mornings? ;) I am being interviewed by WDBJ7 Roanoke News today to talk about the Hope Trail and the events at Steger Creek in Roanoke and Forest. Here's what a T.V. station looks like at 5:15 am.

UPDATE: I look like a dork on T.V. And just so you know, when the weather guy gives his report, he points to a blank green screen like an invisible map. So cool.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Charter Girls

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - An intimate gathering of great women in a beautiful resort - now that’s my kinda party! At the luncheon on Saturday, I was joined by survivors, friends of survivors and my sweet team members from the Vera Bradley’s sales department who are traveling with me. This was such a wonderful luncheon. There was a raffle and a silent auction, too (I won an auction item for the first time ever!!!). I could not have been happier with this event. The staff from the Ballantyne Resort went to such great lengths to make their first party such a success, and I fondly look forward to seeing them again next year. The ladies in attendance (the "Charter Members" of this event) have all pledged to return again next year even though some of them will be moving far and wide. Now that’s what I call a success!

The old blogger and the sea

Check out the waves crashing behind me.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Winston-Salem Wonderland

WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA - What a kick off!!! Carolyn and Ken Gaither know how to throw a party (and create a store, and hire the best people). We celebrated the first event of the Mid-Atlantic Hope Trail in their spectacular store Salem Creek. This is unlike any retail shop I have even been in and was outshone only by the wonderful staff. (Take the virtual tour on the web site and you'll see what I mean). There was such a great mix of people in attendance - oncology nurses, cancer researchers, survivors and families. We all enjoyed refreshments while listening to an amazing harpist in this sweet setting. Thank you to all at Salem Creek for getting us off to a great start on Friday. I loved visiting with you!

Carolyn & Ken Gaither and Me

Friday, September 19, 2008

And so it begins...

WARSAW, INDIANA - Our adventure starts like all others when you live 1 1/2 hours from the nearest airport...really early. This is a picture of my clock. Wow! And I'm already running late.

It is always really hard for me to kiss my babies goodbye! However, I am excited, to meet the new friends we will encounter, to spend time with our dear Vera Bradley sales team, and to just tell people about the work that this Foundation is doing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why we do what we do

WARSAW, INDIANA - Tomorrow morning, my mother-in-law goes in for surgery. Cancer surgery. This news was totally unexpected and has stopped us all in our tracks. Isn’t that a funny thing for someone who has had to undergo several cancer surgeries of her own? I think it just goes to show you that no matter who you are, no matter where you are in your life journey, you can be touched by this terrible disease. I know that this means that my children are now in a very high percentile for contracting this disease one day, even more so then when it was just in my immediate family history.

This, dear friends, is why the Foundation team fights every day. We know we are in sight of the most revolutionary cure in all of history - one that will cure cancer. We have to keep working to raise funds for research and get them into the hands of the best researchers. Please, pray for Sue Floyd, pray for Sue Clearys’ mom who just started her treatments the day of the event at Paisley on Main, and pray for the 499* other women that will be diagnosed today – and their families.

*(According to the National Cancer Institute, 182,460 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friends new and old

DEER PARK, ILLINOIS – The Vera Bradley at Deer Park Town Center store held a wonderful event for the Foundation. The staff, which includes an 11-year breast cancer survivor, did a lovely job organizing it. We were joined by people who have been friends of Vera Bradley for quite some time and some who have just been recently introduced to us. One lovely group of ladies came to us by way of a recently posted event, ‘Skate for Hope’. One of their family members participated in Skate for Hope, and after I spoke with him he allowed me to invite his mom, grandma and sisters to our event since they happen to live in the area. We were also joined by some dear friends from the Chicago Merchandise Mart. What an honor to have these friends with us tonight.

Rockne Brubaker's Sweet Family & Me

Chicago Merchandise Mart Friends

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Welcome home!

GLEN ELLYLN, ILLINOIS - It is the perfect, quintessential American town. Flags are proudly hung year round, and when a cause as important as breast cancer is being addressed, the Glen Ellyn community pulls out all the stops! Paisley on Main hosted an impeccable event involving many local businesses. In less than a month, Sue, owner of Paisley, drummed up downtown-wide action, organized a wonderful breakfast at Honey Cafe and even got a Village Proclamation ready! I am frequently moved by places I go and the people I meet, but this town holds a special, dear place in my heart – it’s a place I call home. Today, I walked by the park at which my daughters used to play, the library that was a frequent stop for our bike rides and of course the sweet downtown that holds so many memories. Thank you, Sue and all of Glen Ellyn for making me feel so special and for taking the time to acknowledge ALL survivors here.

Celebrating survivors

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILLINOIS - A year ago, the owner of Vignettes asked a friend if she would make a quilt for her upcoming event to raise money for the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. “Yes," she said, "of course I will. I haven’t been touched by breast cancer in my family, but I would love to help.” So she made a beautiful quilt, one that raised over $1,000 in the auction last year at Vignettes. The morning she was to deliver the quilt to the store, she was diagnosed with cancer. Today, one year later, she came back to the store for the second annual event. She had just completed her treatments this afternoon. I have kept her name off for anonymity, but this is a thank you for her.

To all of you who are survivors, to all of you just now calling yourself a survivor, and to those just beginning this journey, please know we do this for you. Every day, we do our best to raise funds for breast cancer research so that we will have fewer members in ‘team survivor’.

A lovely night for a party

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILLINOIS - The weather was perfect last night for this indoor/outdoor ladies only shopping party at Vignettes, which kicked off the Illinois part of the Hope Trail. For the second year in a row, this great shop hosted an event to help raise funds for the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, offering late night shopping, beverages and fun door prizes. Many survivors were in attendance, and so many came up to tell me how much of an impact it had on them that the Foundation has someone who is a survivor who attends events and speaks to them. It is so moving when people approach me with tears in their eyes to thank us. I am the one who thanks you - you make it all worthwhile!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Getting fired up!

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - The average temperature it takes to fire ceramics in a kiln is just under 1600° F, did you know that? But let me tell you, it gets a whole lot hotter than that when you gather a group of professional ceramic studios together who want to help raise money for breast cancer research! The Contemporary Ceramic Studio Association adopted the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer as their charity for their annual convention, which was held in Phoenix over the weekend. They pulled together the most impressive auction I have ever witnessed with beautiful items like the clock in the picture. There are so many compassionate, wonderful people in the world of ceramics, and I am just so honored to call them my friends now! It is truly the rare event that I attend where we are simultaneously sharing stories of breast cancer, crying and then laughing until our sides ache. Exact numbers on how much money was raised are still coming in at this time, but we have been told that close to $30,000 was raised in just one evening. Simply amazing!!! So, I want everyone to go have a ‘Girls Night Out’ party at a paint your own pottery studio (make sure it’s a CCSA member!), and tell them how cool they are and thank them for supporting us!!! Find a location near you at ccsaonline.com or paintyourownpottery.net.