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Team Spirit/Tri-State Trio Takes Washington Walk for Cancer Victims

by Nathan Oravec

Bravo Mike Hotel.

To the layperson, the seemingly random string of words is nonsensical. To the Coast Guard, though, it’s signal flags and code derived from the phonetic alphabet. To Active Duty Coast Guard members Brandi Baldwin of Hagerstown, MD and Hilary Stickle of Martinsburg, WV and Coast Guard contractor Michelle Stevens of Inwood, WV, it is their name as a team. A team which soon will trek to the Washington DC-based Wellness Center for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer on Saturday and Sunday, May 1-2, 2004.

To the victims of breast cancer, it is a sign of hope.

The Avon Walk D.C. is one in a series of six weekend walks held from May to October in a concerted effort by the non-profit Avon Foundation to raise monies and awareness for breast cancer research. Awarding funds to beneficiaries nationwide, running the gamut from lauded cancer and health centers to individual community non-profit and grassroots programs, the Avon Walk fosters further awareness and education while providing operating funds for integral screenings, diagnoses, treatment and support essential to the continuing, vigilant research for a cure.

For the women of BMH (from the flags denoting the respective first letters of their names - Brandi, Michelle, Hilary), the cause was one they believed in.

Initially associates, the trio had met in the workplace and ultimately became friends. It was Baldwin, though, who first heard of the Avon Walk via an e-mail that was at first glance disregarded as SPAM. “I thought it was random junk mail,” she says. “Then they sent me a post card. I thought about it for a while and finally asked for more information.” Soon after, she asked for a little help from her friends. It didn’t take much coercing for Stevens and Stickle to sign on.

“Personally, my grandmother died from breast cancer,” explains Stevens. “This walk basically raises funds for those who are less fortunate and might not be able to afford treatment. [So] when Brandi told me about the walk I said, ‘Sure I’ll do it.’ I thought it would be a good opportunity to give back to the community.”

Personal experience with the disease played a role in Stickle’s decision to walk, as well. “My aunt is currently struggling with breast cancer,” she says. “Cancer, in fact, has popped up in my family several times. My older brother [has struggled with the disease throughout his life.]”

“It’s a big issue with me,” she stresses. “I’d like to see it gone in any form.”

Baldwin, too, had a run in with the disease when her father was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. Last year, following chemotherapy treatment, he was reported as cancer-free. Her reason for walking two-fold, Baldwin had also been struggling with painful back problems resulting from a herniated disk. Surgery in 2000 helped to correct the problem, but difficulty, she says, still arises. The physicality involved in walking, she explains, would serve as therapy, of sorts. “I thought I could do something good for the community and also for myself - keeping active.”

“Some days,” she says, “walking to the car can be a challenge. So 26 miles is going to be a real feat.”

A non-competitive, yet lengthy walk, designed for all fitness levels, walkers have a choice between a marathon walk (26.2 miles) and a marathon and a half (39.1) during the weekend event. No strangers to marching, the BMH crew has been training both individually and as a unit. “I’ve been walking three days a week, six miles a day,” says Baldwin. “On the third day I walk farther, I’ve gone up to ten miles already at two to two and a half miles per hour.”

“I have an elyptical trainer at home,” says Stevens, “but we also get together and take walks - our first was along the C&O Canal. We’ve been conditioning ourselves for the event.”

“I walk about three to four miles a day routinely, depending on the weather,” notes Stickle, adding, “Hopefully it won’t be this wet on the first.”

All participants in the Avon Walk are required to raise a minimum of $1,800 prior to the event. While each is equipped with a personal web site where friends and family can visit and sponsor the walker directly via credit card, the members of BMH, ever resourceful, took an extra fundraising step.

“The big thing is that because the walk is held in Washington, DC, most of the fundraising is happening out there. We wanted to bring [fundraising] back to Hagerstown and the surrounding area.”

The group solicited local restaurants with a simple request: a percentage of earnings on a given business day donated to a good and worthy cause. The response was remarkable, with four restaurants throughout Hagerstown - Ledo Pizza, Garfield’s, Al Pomodoro and Roccoco - rising to the call. Called “Pink Tuesdays” and advertised on pink flyers handed out to citizens and businesses by BMH, each restaurant was designated a Tuesday in April, a portion of each diner’s bill on that day going toward the walker team’s fundraising goal.

Fundraisers have been held at both Ledo and Garfield’s in early April, each donating ten percent of their Tuesday earnings toward the cause. Al Pomodoro (April 20) and Roccoco (April 27) remain, having each weighed in with a fifteen percent donation.

“We’re really grateful for the restaurants that have agreed to participate,” says Stickle, who notes that she recently picked up a much-appreciated and important check from Ledo Pizza. “It’s just fantastic how willing they have been to donate to the cause.”

“I was at Garfield’s the other night making pink ribbons to hand out,” says Stevens. “I’ve sent an e-mail to all of the people in my office. They’re all very supportive. We’re going to have a Division Dining Out Night.”

Indeed, the support of family and friends has been invaluable to the BMH cause, which is still working on its cumulative $5,400 goal.

“My brother in North Carolina has been helping out,” says Stickle. “He works at a Pizza Hut there and has donated a couple hundred dollars right off the cuff. It’s just great.”

“My mother in Aberdeen, Maryland has been helping me raise money in that area,” notes Stevens. “I think it’s great that people are so willing to donate.”

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), all women are at risk for breast cancer. Last year, approximately 211,300 were diagnosed. Over thirty-nine thousand died as a result of the disease. A ninety-seven percent survival rate is attributed to early detection and treatment.

“Hopefully this walk is a step toward eradicating one form of cancer,” says Stickle. “We’ll work on the others as they come up.”

For more information on the BMH Team and the Pink Tuesdays fundraising events, visit Donations can also be mailed to LT Hilary Stickle, 408 Coast Guard Drive, Kearneysville, WV 25430. Make checks payable to: Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

For more information on the Avon Foundation and the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, visit or Call 1-877-WALK AVON.

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