20 Faces of Komen Columbus: Week Three

Since this May 19, 2012 will be the 20th Annual Komen Columbus Race for the Cure, for the next 20 weeks we’re going to spotlight 20 individuals who have participated in the Race throughout the years. They come from all walks of life and may be survivors, volunteers, grantees, sponsors or advocates, but they’re all committed to the fight against breast cancer.

Week Three: The One Who Sees the Money in Action

For Melissa Thomas, it was the names of people who had lost their battles to breast cancer on the backs of Race for the Cure participants that drew her in to her first Race in 1999.

“It’s those little moments…a breast cancer survivor holding hands with her daughter, a father and mother walking alongside their daughter (who looked my age) who was taking chemo…these are the moments that make the Race so real and the fight so incredibly important.”

Melissa Thomas at her grantee table during the 2011 Race

Melissa got involved with the Race then as it was the first year she had received funding for a grant and wanted to participate in one of the events that was helping to fund her project.

“My commitment in the field of breast cancer was inspired by my Grandmother, who lost her battle to cancer because she did not have the lifesaving information and access to care that is all too common in Appalachia Ohio.  I am involved with Komen not only as a grantee, but as an advocate to help ensure that others don’t have to die due to health disparities in our state.”

Twelve years later and that commitment is still going strong. Melissa currently serves as the director for the “The Amish & Mennonite Breast Health Project” that reaches out to women in Knox, Muskingum, Fairfield, Pickaway, Ross, Pike and Monroe Counties with breast health awareness and screening opportunities. She is also the program director for the “Proyecto Cancer de Seno en Latinas: The Latina Breast Cancer Project,” which connects Latina women in Central Ohio with screening services and breast cancer education programs.

Melissa encourages friends and family to get involved in the Race to support local programming that can impact men and women in our community.

“I know that 75% of the funding raised at the Race stays right in our region. As a two-time national research grantee, I also know that the other 25% helps fund projects like mine to help explore breast cancer research issues.  I never have to wonder how the money is being used. My donation does make a difference, and it makes a difference locally.”

From Left to Right are Melissa, program coordinator Adriana de la Peña and Otterbein University intern Katie Stuckey at the 2010 Race.

Melissa also encourages others to get the same feeling of community she experiences at the Race.

“Breast cancer has so many faces and we often only have a very limited view of how breast cancer affects our community. I always leave the Race inspired and energized to continue our efforts to honor Nancy Brinker’s promise to her sister.”

Look for Melissa on Race day in the Expo area passing out educational materials about her grant program or on the Race course surrounded by friends and family.

“I always look forward to the sense of community I feel at the Race.  There’s a palpable energy that can be felt throughout the entire Race, from start to finish, from the exhibits to the volunteers who line the route.  Our grant year begins in April, so experiencing the Race near the beginning of our grant year really inspires both our returning and new volunteers.  I truly look forward to the hope that is felt at this amazing event.”

Click here to register and join Melissa on the race course and help her help thousands of women in Central and Southeastern Ohio.