Walking the Walk
It is important for me to remember how she lived and not those last few days when she had gained fifteen pounds from tumor weight and could scarcely speak or know to whom she was speaking. A tireless advocate for young people who without fail selflessly placed the needs of others before her own, my mother rarely “talked the talk” but she always “walked the walk.” Whenever a need for a particular improvement or service emerged, rather than complain or look to another to fix the problem, she took action. For example, when my sisters and I were in elementary school, she noticed that the playground equipment had become outdated and badly needed replacing. Unsatisfied with the current principal’s timetable for procuring additional funding to tackle the job, she started her own capital campaign and within one year ground was broken on the new playground at Jeffers Hill Elementary. Later, as I began looking at colleges (I am the oldest of three), a similar scenario unfolded when she walked into the Oakland Mills High School guidance office. After deeming the paucity of information totally unacceptable, she made it her decade-long mission to transform the guidance office into an organized, student-focused center for information on college and scholarship options. The Ulman Cancer Fund, to which my mother donated time and energy during her life, was formed out of this same desire to serve the community by identifying a void (the lack of support for young adults facing a cancer diagnosis or the diagnosis of a loved one) and then taking action to provide the necessary service.
Service is something that I grew up with. My mother modeled it for me and she expected it of me. Long before she received her diagnosis of colon cancer in 2007, I had been aware of the Ulman Cancer Fund. I played soccer and basketball against Doug in high school (held my own in basketball, not so much in soccer…) and followed him to Brown University in the fall of 1996. When I arrived on campus I looked him up in the directory — yes, there was a time when students went to college without cell phones — and gave him a call. I was stunned to hear from his roommate that he had been diagnosed with cancer…
After Doug’s recovery, I first learned of the Ulman Cancer Fund and its mission to serve young adults victimized by this horrible disease. I immediately knew that I needed to get involved. My first opportunity came as a teacher and coach at Mt. Hebron High School. I worked with Brock Yetso to raise money and awareness for the cause through a “Mile-A-Thon” that was held on the school’s track in the spring. Now, after completing law school and beginning my new career at Venable LLP, I am looking forward to a “second act.” I am excited to continue to serve young adults through my year of service on the Board of Young Adult Advisors and look forward to re-connecting with old friends as well as meeting new ones. In that vein, I invite everyone to come out this Wednesday night, October 10, to Max’s in Fells Point from 6 to 8 if you are interested in finding out more about the Board’s planned activities and joining the fight against cancer.
In honor of my mother and on behalf of her loved ones (especially Ellie, Anna, Alex and Audrey — the grandchildren that she so looked forward to but never met), I am looking forward to “walking the walk” and hope that you will join in as well. Together, we can ensure that although individual battles may be lost, in the end the war will be won.