Nov. 1, 2012, Vol. 10, Issue 21
There’s nothing like attending an event to remind me of the many, many aspects that go into planning special events for your communities. I don’t think there’s anything more special than a breast cancer event — truly a celebration of life. While I happen to think that choosing the speaker is a huge part of your success, I have to acknowledge that it is just one piece of the total picture.
None of it would matter without all of the other pieces — the table decor, the raffle, the fashion show, the silent auction, the food, the venue, the marketing, the registration process. Everything adds up to the reputation for your event that means women want to come back year after year. All of this came home to me at this event, yet I was caught by surprise by the story I heard behind the scenes . . .so in this issue I want to share with you a little about an event my husband and I attended last Saturday afternoon, at the invitation of our speaker, Heidi Marble. And if you’ve ever wondered if all of this makes a difference, I have some impressive feedback to share with you. You just never know how and when someone may be moved to action based on a speaker’s message or something else they experience at your event.
The Power of a Story Touching Hearts, Building a Following
I just happened to be talking with Heidi last week about a potential speaking engagement for 2013 when she invited me to an event she was going to speak at in Longview, WA — about an hour from my home. She was going to be trying out some new material — her journey as a survivor, the ongoing story.
Heidi is a 12-year survivor of inflammatory breast cancer. When diagnosed, she was given a 1 in 1,000 chance of surviving. In 2008 she had told her original story of diagnosis, treatment and recovery at this same breast cancer survivor luncheon. The photo shows Heidi with her prop, a giant lemon for making Big Lemonade.
Always up for a field trip, I invited my husband along. Now this was a first . . . I’ve invited him to lots of speaking engagements, but never to a breast cancer luncheon. He didn’t hesitate a moment. What a guy!
There were almost 400 women there, including 130 survivors. When St. Johns Hospital started this event 5 years ago, 80 women had attended.
We were greeted with a glass of pink lemonade and walked into a room vibrating with pink decor, expectant women (and a few good men) ready to enjoy the festivities — a little shopping, a silent purse auction, fashion show, lunch and speaker — and, of course, the camaraderie of other women. I joined in the festivities by having a hot pink hair extension (streak) put in my hair and I came home with a flamboyant pink boa to play with.
The fashion show, featuring survivors, was a hootin’ and hollerin’ fest, as each model answered a question about her breast cancer experience, and then sashayed down the runway in an outfit provided by Macy’s to the audiences’ encouragement. And speaking of fashion, this is where the power of connection comes in — the power of a story touching hearts.
When Heidi spoke there 4 years ago, she told her story and in her presentation she mentioned how she despised the flimsy hospital gowns she was given to wear during treatment. “By the time I got to radiation,” she said, “I was very tired and feeling very vulnerable . . . and cold. It’s all so de-feminizing and sterile. I wanted to feel warm and safe.”
She made an appointment with her radiation oncologist, who thought she wanted to talk about her treatment. “I just wanted to ask him if I could wear my robe,” she says in her program, holding up her favorite, fuzzy bathrobe. His answer: “You can do whatever you want,” and so Heidi, became the one who, in her fuzzy bathrobe, brought smiles and inspiration to many other patients.
When she told that story 4 years ago, it resonated emotionally with three girls from the local high school who had been recruited as volunteers to help at the luncheon. They really got it — the discomfort of treatment, and the strength of the women undergoing it – and they were moved to action. “How hard could it be to provide warm, fuzzy robes for the patients?” they asked.
They took the idea back to their leadership class at school and initiated a fundraising drive, raising over $3,000 to buy beautiful, fluffy, warm robes for the Radiation Oncology Unit at St. John’s.
But it was much more than a fundraising project. They worked with the hospital to determine what kind of robes would work best. They faced issues like laundry and storage. And they decided they would witness firsthand the difference their efforts made in the lives of the patients.
Rather than raising money and sending it off somewhere, these girls got to participate and witness making a difference in their own community. They learned, at their own initiative, about adult women facing mortality and how each one handles it her own way. If you want to be really inspired, you can read the entire, heartwarming story here in this clip from the local newspaper.
When Heidi heard about it, she was deeply touched, as she should have been. It all started with a story, her personal story, which is exactly what she’s starting with in her new talk about survivorship. “I share my coping strategies — the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m not proud of some of them but I don’t think there’s a one-track formula for healing. We all make our mistakes and do what we do, based a lot on translations from our past.”
Heidi was warm, funny, authentic and empathetic, sad and wry with a little battlefield humor thrown in — a survivor relating to survivors, caregivers and other vulnerable human beings just like you and me. Her talk moved us. Most importantly, it moved the women in the room, especially the survivors, who really do know the truth of what she was reporting.
And here’s the message to you meeting planners: as we waited for the program to begin, woman after woman told us excitedly that she had come back just to hear Heidi, who had inspired her so much four years ago. They remembered parts of that talk verbatim.
Apparently they also brought their friends and spread the word, since whereas the original audience was less than 100, now almost 400 showed up. And now instead of three high school girls there were a dozen.
They were so engaged that they lined up with Heidi on stage and led a conga line through the audience.
This one speaker, in fact, had inspired a whole community by talking honestly about her journey, and the effects of that sharing lasted and will continue to grow over years to come.
To learn more about Heidi and her programs, and to get access to speakers who will set your community on fire and repay your hospital’s efforts for years to come, visit our website, or give me a call at 503-699-5031. It’s free to you.
To My Beloved Fruit Stand
As office buildings grew around it, the fruit stand had been grandfathered in but now the landowners’ family matriarch has died, the land has been sold, and some sort of shopping mecca that we don’t need in this neighborhood will be built.
Turns out, there’s no place for farm fresh fruits and vegetables, when it comes to building codes and zoning regulations. Efforts to find another suitable location have been fruitless (pun intended), mainly because of the same aforementioned building and zoning ordinances.
It just won’t do to have a tent on a corner with some parking around it – offering good, healthy, fresh food. Mind you, there’s never been a problem there with anyone or anything.
The tent always went up a few weeks before Easter with pots of daffodils and tulips. Then I could start anticipating the arrival of green onions, asparagus, lettuces, and strawberries. And so it went through the summer, a steady progression of ripeness until Oct. 31, half-price day.
But now the pumpkins are gone, and along with them, one of my favorite things. I may have to get a CSA (which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and if you don’t yet know about that, Google it. It’s where you support local farmers and ensure yourself a steady supply of fresh fruits and vegetables all season long) but that won’t substitute for the farm market experience.
Yesterday was half price day, and I stocked up, just like I’ve stocked up on the memories of delight when I spotted the first raspberries of the season, the first corn, and my newest favorite, fresh bunches of kale. Sometimes I’d head that way on my dog walk, just to see what was new. What goody has come in season today?
And if it’s not enough that I miss the experience, so will my pocketbook. This photo is what I got for $17.15 yesterday on half-price day. I think it’s time to put the vegetable soup pot on the stove.
I’ll just have to live with my happy memories. Adieu, Parsons Farm. I will miss you immensely.
Wishing you happy memories of things you’ve loved and left behind. Take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.
For Your Well Being is published bi-weekly. We bring you insider speaker reports, exclusive stories about special events around the country, meeting planner tips, and fun stuff from the worlds of health and well being. Be well and be in the know!
The Speak Well Being Group is a specialized speakers bureau, focusing on speakers for hospital-sponsored community events, healthcare organizations, conferences and women’s groups. Our speakers are hand-selected. They are not only experts in their fields, they know how to connect with women and give them life-changing information served on a silver platter of joy, camaraderie, with a side of sauce (spicy, of course).
Finding the perfect keynote speaker for your special event or conference is my personal passion, not just once, but year after year. It brings me endless joy to know that your audience was delighted and moved by the speaker we selected together. I’m committed to making the process easy, pleasant and fun.