PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - When I was a little girl, my grandfather would write me letters. Born in Germany, he worked harder than anyone I knew to assimilate to his new country that he adored so unabashedly. By writing to his granddaughter, he could practice penmanship and English with someone who would just cherish the letters and never criticize any small flaws. That was my introduction to the gift that is the handwritten note. Years later, as I went to college, the letters sent every week (without fail!) from my mother are still so powerful I can honestly still not look at them; I just miss her so much. Just a few short years ago, when I was quite ill, I received other letters. Some were just quick jots on a note card, some were letters penned on lovely stationery and some were in a journal that circulated around the Vera Bradley offices so everyone who wanted to could add a note. I have them all, I read them all, I want people to understand how profoundly they affected my life. When you take the time to sit down and write something to someone, it shows that you care about them and have them in your thoughts. These are the same sentiments felt by my friend, Devon. She is starting a project that will hopefully remind people about the value of these tender expressions – when she partnered with Vromans in Pasadena, it was the perfect fit. Hey, I have an idea. Send me snail mail at: The Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Attention: Heidi Floyd P.O. Box 80201 Fort Wayne, IN 46898
GLENDALE, CALIFORNIA - The Vera Bradley store at The Americana at Brand is breathtaking; and I say that with full acknowledgment that I have been to several Vera Bradley stores. They have a chandelier OUTSIDE, can you imagine? Ah, California. The staff put on a lovely event, with yummy treats spread out for all who attended and warm conversations for everyone. There weren’t hundreds of people who attended, but the ladies who came during my time there were such great people to meet, I am delighted we were able to have the event at this location. Cancer survivors were given gifts, and one customer revealed that she was a survivor of more than a decade while another was still going through treatment right now. It is this diversity amongst us that makes us all so strong; we offer encouragement for the ‘newbies’ and celebrate with joy those who have double-digits in their survivorship. What a store.
VENTURA, CALIFORNIA - Soroptimist means “the best for women”. I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard about this organization until I was asked to speak at their event – now I know. They are so impressive, so passionate – and not just about breast cancer, but about all women’s issues. Human trafficking, health issues, treatment of women in developing nations, women’s empowerment toward money management – everything! Each group has an issue they’ve embraced and are working hard to effect change for that issue. Some of these ladies have been doing this for over 50 years; finding people that devoted is a rarity indeed. They are fun and witty while simultaneously hard working and dedicated. During these difficult times, it is hard to think that we can spare anything at all, whether it be time, effort or money. I encourage you to just meet one of these ladies, and see if they don’t inspire you to at least try.
TULSA, OKLAHOMA - In case you think that fundraisers are limited to the middle-aged crowd, or to just people with lots of spare time, I would like you to meet my friend Cassie. She is not even in high school yet and this year she HAS raised over $5,000 for the Vera Bradley Foundation – and this was only through her sphere of influence; friends, family and schoolmates. Imagine what the future holds for this dear girl, where she can go and what she can achieve in her life. Inspired and motivated by the Pink Elephant Luncheon (3rd annual!) and its hostess, Sheri Renfrow, Cassie was determined to do whatever she could to help find a cure. When she learned that almost 70% of her school friends had been affected by this disease, it really made her decision to help much easier. Thank you, Tulsa, Sheri and especially my sweet Cassie. I look forward to watching you grow into the amazing woman you are destined to become.
WARSAW, INDIANA - The day started pretty early for the ladies of Tri-Kappa. They had worked so hard for this day, and their efforts were apparent. I had never played bingo before – not unless you count camp as a kid. This event was a well-oiled pink machine and it was (from the outside observer) flawless! Entire tables of women would gasp in anticipation as they almost…almost…almost got the winning number. Rose was doing the calling and it was a riot. She was loud and clear, but funny and sweet as well (she’s a school teacher, I’m not surprised). Thank you, Dana, for introducing me to this fun group of women. And thank you, Tri-Kappa for putting your hearts and souls into this great fundraiser.Your donation to the Vera Bradley Foundation is much appreciated!
WARSAW, INDIANA - So we all left the Tri-Kappa event from the morning, had a quick bite at a local eatery (the Boathouse had pink balloons out for the guests!) and then headed right back for the afternoon festivities! Barb Richards from Majic WAJI in Fort Wayne, Indiana, guided us to through the afternoon, and what an afternoon it was. Redeemer Lutheran really showed that they walk the walk when it comes to community outreach and blew us all away. Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, co-founder of Vera Bradley, moved us all to tears as she told us about how and why the Foundation was created and what it means to her personally. Rachel Doyle’s brother and sister personally thanked us for helping their family with the pediatric cancer bills (no dry eyes in the house after that). This small town in Indiana really had its heart on its sleeve for this one;it just shows how much you can do if you have a force of great friends and neighbors. Now everyone come out and visit Warsaw/Winona Lake – you will LOVE it!
KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA - I was asked to speak to a group of ladies at Kiawah Island today, and it turned out to be one of those speaking engagements where I go in not knowing a soul, and leaving feeling as if all of our souls have connected. They were so sweet and gracious! What an honor it was to meet these incredible women, what a blessing to have spoken to and with them. Thank you, Southern Power, for allowing me to be a part of your great event!
HONOLULU, HAWAII - I travel a lot for the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer – a LOT. It is an honor to meet so many people from all walks of life, and it’s an even bigger honor when they keep in touch with me. I like to introduce you to some of them when they give me permission. I seem to be meeting a great many younger women with breast cancer; the statistics are staggering. Awareness that this disease doesn’t just hit women who are in their late 50’s is really something that needs to happen!
This is Heidi and her daughter, sweet little Darby. I met Heidi when I spoke at Pearl Harbor – I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. The attention that the staff give on that military base is extraordinary and really should be duplicated everywhere. They have a full-time person (yay Mary!) who helps women with breast cancer navigate the complicated and often scary process of cancer treatment and recovery. Heidi is one of ‘Mary’s ladies’ and is such a great representative of all that we should strive to be; strength, grace, beauty and love. It was nice to meet you, Heidi. Keep fighting, keep smiling, and don’t stop hugging that sweet sweet little girl of yours. Congratulations on finishing that chemo, now go tackle that radiation. xoxo!
ROANOKE, INDIANA - It’s a great representation for the world of breast cancer, really. The fact that someone like myself can put her finger out and touch a Picasso (honest-to-goodness!) is something that amazes me. There is a new art gallery opening in Roanoke that will be called 'The Red Chair Gallery,' and they decided to host a few introductory art exhibits and sales, a portion of which will benefit the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. That is how it came to be that someone like myself, who usually enjoys her art in museums or in books I read to my children, is able to stand close to and actually touch this beautiful selection. It’s a good time to reflect and realize, however, that cancer touches everyone. It doesn’t care about your taste in art, your financial status, your race or religion. Sadly, it’s in the lives of everyone, including the generous man who runs the Red Chair Gallery – who lost his mother to breast cancer. A great big thank you to this great gallery for helping so many with this magnanimous donation. By the way, my friend Mike actually purchased this Picasso. I told him it would be a fantastic birthday present for me this year; he whacked me with his napkin. Drat. :)
FORT WAYNE, INDIANA - When he finally arrived, both he and I were so sick we couldn’t stay with each other. He went off to the neo-natal intensive care unit and I stayed alone in the maternity ward. Neither of us had hair, neither of us had immune systems that were worth much, neither of us had very much energy. We had gone through months and months of chemotherapy, scans, surgeries, pokes and prods that seemed to never end. I am here today, dear friends, to tell you that every moment – every single one – was worth the fight. Happy 4th birthday, sweet little warrior! Love, Mommy.
The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the writer and not endorsed by Vera Bradley or the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. This information should not substitute for advice from your personal physician.