Saturday, March 14, 2009

Avon Walk For Breast Cancer Expo

“Anything The Nationals can do to join in this fight is very, very important to our family, as well as everyone else's." stated Helen Kasten, the wife of Our Washington Nationals Team President Stan Kasten to the few hundred on hand today on South Capitol Street. Mrs. Kasten, a breast cancer survivor, was The Guest of Honor today at The Avon Walk Expo at Nationals Park. A precursor to the upcoming Avon Walk for Breast Cancer to be held in Washington, DC on the weekend of May 2nd and May 3rd, 2009.

“I know The Nationals have provided tickets to be sold so you can help raise funds to meet your goals and join in this walk. I hope you sell a lot of tickets because we need that too. Not only are our fans very important to us—but the more people we can see on that day of recognition ( Monday, May 4th)--the more pink we can put in the stands--the more awareness we will have for our cause. And then even more people will be exposed next year so we can all raise a lot more money and find an end to this dreadful thing (Breast Cancer)!”

And in support of their breast cancer surviving mom today--Helen & Mr. Kasten's Children--Alana and Jay were on hand for the event--along with Mr & Mrs. Kasten's Grandson--Devin.

In an average year, nearly 180,000 women in The United States will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Over 40,000 will die. Yet despite those grim statistics, there are currently over two and one/half million breast cancer survivors in The United States. And that is the reason for The Avon Walk For Breast Cancer.

To Find A Cure.

To Make People Well Again.

To Give Life, When Hearts Have Been Lost.

Today, Our Washington Nationals hosted The Avon Walk Expo in The Stars & Stripes Club at Nationals Park. The opportunity for registrants, survivors and supporters to learn more about awareness, health options available, nutrition and fundraising. An all encompassing event to publicly get the word out that Breast Cancer Can Be Beat. Included in today's festivities was the opportunity for any DC Avon Walk participant to sell discounted tickets to three upcoming 2009 Games involving Our Washington Nationals on South Capitol Street. Charity tickets that can be sold for profit, as long as the proceeds go directly to The Avon Walk For Breast Cancer.

“We do this for a lot of charities. We have done this with many of the organizations that have worked with us through community relations," said Chartese Burnett, Vice President of Communications for Our Washington Nationals. "When you are a non-profit organization, you can set up a business-to-business link. So the charity organization will set up a link on their website--in this case to of the initiative). So what we do is have a discounted ticket that we sell to non-profit organizations and large groups that want to have a fundraising component to their efforts. And then we sell those tickets at a discount to the organization. In this case, Avon will be able to sell those tickets at face value with the difference being the money that will go toward their fundraising efforts. In fact, you are going to see us (The Washington Nationals) do a lot more of that type of work this coming year as we really start to spread our wings more aggressively with non-profit organizations.”

Three games have been chosen as fundraising events for The Avon Walk. Monday May 4th when Washington takes on The Houston Astros is the first. On that particular evening, participants will also be honored at Nationals Park. Wednesday, May 20th against The Pittsburgh Pirates and Friday, June 19th against The Toronto Blue Jays are the two other discounted ticket nights for the charity. $10 Tickets to those games are being offered to Avon Walk participants for $7. Those supporters can then sell those tickets at the price of their choosing--as long as all those extra costs go directly to the fundraiser.

One of the recipients of the raised dollars is Food & Friends--a DC Based Organization that assists those with life threatening illnesses in the DC Area.

“Foods & Friends is a beneficiary of The Avon Walk," stated Ellen Root, Associate Development Director for Food & Friends. "A certain percentage of money from all the walkers here today from The Avon Walk will help our mission and breast cancer clients. The very fact that The Nationals are hosting the Expo is a nice benefit. As you know, they (The Nationals) have come over to our mission in the past. We had Screech over packing bags of food, packing the groceries, and some other players as well. They were great in seeing the meals were coming out and putting them in the right bags--so they can be delivered to the clients. It’s a helpful partnership that raises awareness.”

“Food & Friends provides meals and nutritional counseling for people that live in DC and the surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia that are suffering with HIV Aids, Cancers and all other life challenging illnesses. We have many referral programs throughout the community which help clients find us. And we are able to deliver these meals six days per week.”

Throughout the May 2nd and 3rd Avon Walk For Breast Cancer--Food & Friends will be on site cheering and providing support for the participants. At the conclusion of the two-day walk, Food & Friends will provide a lunch for all those walkers and support staff. And considering the economic environment that exists today in The United States, Food & Friends is pleased that there are still organizations out there--willing to help their cause.

“Honestly, we have a small wait list at this time, given the challenges in terms of fundraising. But we try to serve as many people as we can that are medically eligible. It’s regardless of income. It’s regardless of any other situation. You just have to qualify on the basis of your illness. But thankfully, there are those out there willing to help and assist and we are very thankful."

Also on hand in The Stars & Stripes Club today was The Capital Breast Care Center of Washington, DC. A provider of breast care screenings and services. An organization which provides support for those in need.

If you wish to participate in The Avon Walk For Breast Cancer, you can sign up at the official website. And if you want to fundraise for the event--with all proceeds going to The Avon Walk--you can contact Michael Benko with Our Washington Nationals to take advantage of the ticket sales opportunities. You can reach Michael at or 202-640-7648.

Of course today's activities would not be complete without speaking with Helen Kasten. A 7-Year Survivor of Breast Cancer, she kindly spoke with The African Queen and I during today's Avon Walk Expo at Nationals Park. Her family story is quite touching.

How did you get involved with this event? (The African Queen)

“With this, I think when Stan (Kasten) heard The Nationals were going to be involved in partnership with The Avon Walk, he told me there is going to be something in DC about breast cancer and you might want to be involved as he knew I was interested in all this stuff. So, that is how I found out about it and I made sure I could be here today for the Expo.”

Can you explain why this is so personal to you? (SBF)

“I am a breast cancer survivor, seven years. And it’s affected both sides of our family. My family side and my daughter in-laws side, her mother-in-law, passed away from breast cancer about five years ago at a very early age. She fought it for 10 good years and then it got her. My sister is also a breast cancer survivor so we are very much involved in trying to find a cure and bringing awareness. My biggest concern is trying to make sure that woman that are underserved, medically, actually have exposure and can get the same type of care as woman who have good health care, good support systems. There is a big discrepancy between the care of low-income women as opposed to women of higher incomes.”

How did you first find out you had breast cancer? (The African Queen)

“Self awareness, self examination. I was pretty well along on a good size cancer, but I was very fortunate it did not involve my nodes. So it was a good prognosis. With that, even though the tumor was large, I had extremely good care and support. I did a mastectomy and reconstruction, then chemotherapy and radiation. That took about nine months to go through the whole thing. After that, I just have tried to stay healthy and be aware of my body and keeping up on getting to know myself. Even if you know yourself really, really well, it can still get you. But at least if you are aware, and you are not shy about things, you need to know that it’s a killer and you need to know about those things.”

That must be frightening. How did your family deal with it and how were you able to deal with it personally? (The African Queen)

“I think there is a lot of self-defense things that come into play. I was more concerned about how my kids would react? How Stan would be? How my mother, God Bless, would handle this. So, I was more in the mode of: ‘How am I going to tell this one? How am I going to tell that one? How will I make it not so horrible for them?’ I already knew what I was going to do. I had already seen my doctor and knew what procedure I needed. And it was in my head that I was not dying. I was going to take care of this. I think getting out of the ‘Why Me’ thing helped. I thought on the lines of how am I going to manage this with my family and my kids and my mom. My dad died of cancer at 50. I was 48 (when diagnosed with breast cancer). It was just too close.”

“I had great support. My mom came in. My sisters came in. My cousins--everybody took a week off to come and help with the kids, drive carpool, take care of the household. Stan was tremendous. He immediately started doing research and finding the best doctors, getting opinions. Really, the first couple of days after I found out, I just cried for days. It was just horrible. But he (Stan) did all the groundwork. He got the doctors. He got the names and he really swung into gear and really had my back the whole time. He was extremely supporting.”

“I was concerned about how he was feeling? And because Stan was so busy, he seemed OK to me. He seemed like he was OK. But he really wasn’t. He really needed a lot of support. I didn’t know that until after things calmed down. People told me he (Mr. Kasten) wasn’t OK. But he had great humor--that helps. My sister, my mom came before my surgery. We just laughed and had a good old time.”

“Then, three weeks later, my sister was diagnosed with cancer, with breast cancer. That again was tough—poor mom. That was really traumatic, even more traumatic I think because then you get into the whole genetic part of the equation. As it turned out, it wasn’t.”

Is she OK? (The African Queen)

“She is fine today. She’s a survivor too—so far. So far, we are here and that’s the best we can hope for.”

Would you say the key to surviving is early detection? (The African Queen)

“Yes, and don’t be shy. Don’t be scared. Don’t be shy. It more scarier waiting and finding out later--than going in and they tell you to come back in six months—we don’t think it is anything. You have got to know your body. You have got to listen to your intuition and if you feel there is something not right—pick up the phone and make an appointment. Don’t wait six months to see what’s going to happen because those couple of months can kill you.”

Clearly, people do survive? (The African Queen)

“Yes, if you find it early you survive. It depends upon the type and the strain of the tumor and all that—but yeah I hope to die a really old lady some day!! Maybe riding my bike hit by a car!! (Laughing)

You mentioned a point earlier on that is really important about why we are here today. People without the means may not have the resources to find out if they have breast cancer. What do these people need to do to get help? (SBF)

“Yes, absolutely correct. Here in DC, there is The Capital Breast Care Center. It is a tremendous organization. They even have a van, I understand, that will go and pick people up and bring them to their office for appointments. They have a whole network of breast care health people. And people need to know they are there. That’s the hardest thing. People don’t know they are there to go for the health screening.”

“Additionally, we are putting a whole lot of money into research, medicines and awareness. But we really need to save the woman who don’t have the resources.”

The scariest part is for those women who don’t have health insurance and doctors? They don’t have the means to even be diagnosed. (The African Queen)

“It's really like 60 years ago when people didn’t know until it was too late and there is no reason for that anymore. There is no excuse for that. People still have to know when to go in and a lot of people don’t like to talk about their breasts. They are embarrassed. It’s going to bring their family down. And yeah, it’s going to bring your family down, but if you die it’s a lot worse. In America, people don’t like to talk about breasts and that’s the truth. It’s really a lot of the hang up.”

You will always be called a survivor. Do you feel you have beaten breast cancer? (SBF)

“I am not confident. (Really? SBF). No. I am a seven-year survivor. I am confident that I am healthy. But it just takes a little microbe of nothing to attach itself somewhere. The chemo tries to kill all that. I hope it did along with the radiation. It doesn’t mean that you will not get sick from something else or get some other type of cancer. I have had skin cancer type of things. There is stuff that can get you, but if there is one thing you can watch for—this (breast cancer) is one of the things. You have to be pro-active. You really have to be pro-active."

With that final answer--Our Conversation With Helen Kasten concluded. The Avon Walk For Breast Cancer is a good cause. If you would like to participate or support the effort in any way, please click on the links above or contact Our Washington Nationals for more information. And remember, it is still true--sometimes the efforts off the field are more important than the wins and losses of baseball.

In this case, lives may depend on it.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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