#BehindtheScenes: Walking for a Cure

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Meet Debbi Stanley, the manager of the Customer Success team at Blackbaud, everydayhero’s parent company. For the past five years, she has been involved with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, a 60-mile walk spread over three days where participants raise funds for breast cancer. We sat down with Debbi to talk about her experiences fundraising and what pushes her to keep going on those long days.

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What drove you to get involved with the Susan G. Komen 3-Day?
My mother-in-law, Robbie, died in 2001 from breast cancer when my youngest child was only a year old. The funny thing was that the disease really didn’t kill her—the cure did. She had Crohn’s Disease, so the chemotherapy caused severe problems, and she basically died from malnutrition. Robbie was one of “those” grandmothers—cookies in the oven, babysitting without being asked. I couldn’t believe that she was gone so fast, in less than six months. Afterwards, I kept hearing about this 3-Day and I thought, “Well, one day, maybe I’ll do that.”

Six years ago, my friend’s mother-in-law got diagnosed with breast cancer. It brought everything up again. I kept thinking, “How can this keep happening?” So, four of us decided to walk in Judy’s honor, in memory of Robbie and for our friend Kathyrn, who is a survivor. It seemed like every day during that first year, we would hear another story of someone fighting, surviving or dying from breast cancer.

When you started, what were anticipating that the 3-Day would be like?
That first year, it was just the four of us, so we leaned hard on each other. We did our training walks with a group from Powered By Optimism (PBO) and Martin gave us pointers—foot goo, sock changes, the power of electrolytes—and told us stories to keep us going. We trained well that year so we felt ready physically. Mentally—oh wow!! When you see the sea of pink going down the Pacific Coast Highway with the ocean on one side and cars lined up on the other, honking and yelling encouragement, it is really a sight to behold.

What is your favorite thing about working at everydayhero?
Fundraising is, by far, the most difficult part of any nonprofit’s operations yet remains the most critical. I find it extremely rewarding to help them think through how to make fundraising efforts work and how to keep those efforts working. everydayhero is a great tool to have in their arsenal, in addition to being able to use marathons and community events as part of their development plan. We just have to teach them how to do it well, do it right and do it consistently. That’s what gets me up every morning. We have a real chance to change the world every day.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share from your fundraising experience?
Consistency is key. This year, I was traveling quite a bit, so my whole fundraising plan got way off track—and we are required to raise $2,300 in order to walk. I had done a neighborhood fundraiser every summer called Flock a Friend with flamingos, but I just didn’t get my act together in time. So in August, one of my neighbors asked, “Where are the flamingos?” I gave her my standard response—I was too busy, but could she still make a donation? She just stared at me like I had lost my mind. “I want my flamingos,” she said and promptly wrote me a check for a flock for herself and three friends. That meant I had to order the stupid things and get my act in gear with only 60 days to go! But, in those 60 days, we raised almost $2,500 and it put all of us over our goal. It just goes to show if you create a fundraising campaign habit, people expect it to continue.

PBO team picture

Were there any big moments that stood out for you during the Komen 3-Day?
There are so many stories, which is really what it is all about. I could tell you about Kate, who was, at age 25, a three-year survivor. Her doctor wrote up her rash as nothing, but with Komen’s help, she got a mammogram that revealed stage three breast cancer. Komen saved her life. Then there’s Bob the Biker, who is over 70 years old and his Harley club raises all his money for him. He has lost two daughters to breast cancer and has one more and three grandchildren who are all girls. He is on his fifth year. He makes me cry every time I see him. He wears his full biker gear every day.

Any other fun facts, stories or experiences that you’d like to share?
Since I’ve gotten involved in fundraising, I’ve learned that Komen is the only research organization that is working on alternatives for women with chronic conditions that can’t withstand chemo, like Robbie. It is also the only one that recognizes that breast cancer does not discriminate by age, so they will fund mammograms for anyone who asks.

Our team has raised almost $1,000,000 for Komen since they began six years ago. We are only $175,000 short of that goal, and we expect to hit it by the spring. We are 100 members strong. And of course, if anyone is interested in supporting me they can make a donation!

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