Last November, I was shocked to read that after years of providing fundraising and support for breast cancer research and survivors, the Avon Foundation will no longer hold their annual Avon 39 Walks to End Breast Cancer.

Maybe shocked is not the right word.  I guess what I felt was a whole range of emotions.  You may not know this, but the Step Sisters originated as an Avon team.  For eight years, we participated in the Washington DC event, raising nearly half a million dollars.

I can’t say I miss the camping, or the rainy walks (many of the walks were rain-soaked), but it was always a weekend filled with sisterhood and camaraderie. It involved a physical challenge, spending time together honoring and remembering loved ones and connecting to others with similar experiences.

It was only when we started seeing more and more friends, neighbors and others in the community diagnosed with the disease, did we rethink the mission of the Step Sisters.  The Avon walks were meaningful, but did our participation help the lady down the street who lived alone and was struggling through chemo?  Did it make a difference to a friend with small kids who was newly-diagnosed?

So we started talking to one another and asking questions.  While we were proud to have raised so much money towards a cure, what was being done to support local patients facing breast cancer?  While research is important, should we leave that for the very large charities?  We talked to our area hospital, nurses, anyone that could help us understand:

What could we do that would directly help local patients?

Four years ago last month, we shifted our focus from an Avon team, to an official non-profit dedicated to patient support and we began addressing that question.  We began slowly, offering three support services at one hospital.  Today, we offer six services at five hospitals, covering two counties.  Our growth told us we were and are answering that question.

Our Ribbon Run, started eleven years ago and has also shifted focus so that funds raised from this event directly support our mission.  While on a smaller scale, our event achieves many of the same feelings of connectedness among patients, survivors, caregivers and supporters and raises important funds for the breast cancer cause.   Each year, we have teams running in pink shirts, survivors proudly wearing their sashes, and onlookers cheering loudly for all.

With the end of the walks, I hope former Avon participants will consider registering for our event. Whether it’s 3.1 miles or 39 miles, the impact to local breast cancer patients is meaningful. You don’t even have to raise $1,800…we’re happy with whatever you’re willing to contribute through personal fundraising Plus, your funds stay here in Northern Virginia.

I’m thankful for the years of doing the Avon walk…it shaped the mission of the Step Sisters today.

To learn more about the April 21st Step Sisters’ Ribbon Run/Walk 5k, visit: