WE DID IT!  Our collective goal for the campaign was $175,000 and we BLEW IT OUT OF THE WATER, crushing it by over $110,000 for a grand total of:  $287,100!  I am proud of us, Fort Wayne.

Todd Smith was named 2013 Man of the Year (Congrats, Todd and team!) and I was named 2013 Woman of the Year.  It’s a total misnomer because there’s no way anyone has enough money to donate in order to get my friends to call me that henceforth.  Not even once.
Nor should they. (Unless, however, I beat them handily at WWF, then that’s clearly another story).  Nothing about this was an individual effort.  It took every ounce of time, energy, teamwork, and purpose that the collective“us” could muster in order to make this all come to fruition.  Our teams were absolutely invaluable.   And while each of the six teams went about efforts in different ways, we ALL wanted the same outcome:  money in the hands of researchers to FIND A CURE FOR BLOOD CANCERS. 
Spend wisely, Dr. Smarties.  We’re rooting for you.  Go get ‘em.
I also promised I’d recap some of the emotions from Friday.  I’ll try.  Even I sometimes struggle with the right words to convey such a momentous occasion.  Friday was a day in which everything came to a culmination, a personal sense of closure, and an end…for now.
I woke up and somehow magically my stomach knew it was Gala Day.  For a quick second I was very confused, thinking I was about to go run a marathon since it was the exact same feeling of “Did I eat some really bad sushi last night?” I get race morning.  After a cup of coffee, I was better.
At 10:00am, I met Jen at Ceruti’s to help unload the auction items.  I thought arriving there would make me more nervous, but actually, it helped.  Keeping busy is my medicine (c’mon…act like you didn’t know).  From there, got the hair done, came home, made some food, and (act surprised again), had a glass of wine.  It’s totally better than coffee.
Chelsea and Joe arrived first.  Ok, now that IS a surprise! My best friend is NEVER on time (love you, you know it’s true).  There as so many things to say about the level of closeness we have shared our entire lives, but suffice it to say, her non-stop talking calms me down.  Our non-stop banter back and forth relaxes me like nothing else.  The relationship is unrivaled.
Shortly thereafter our friend, Ty, showed up from Ohio to do the make-up.  There’s nothing better than not only saying Up Yours, Cancer…but also saying Up Yours, circa late ‘80’s prom-night!  23 years later, I had a much better +1 than I did in High School, not that there’s really any comparison whatsoever.  Angela then arrived from Indy followed by Liv, Mariam, my amazing +1 and friend, Foster, and a gaggle of IOS compadres.  I think the neighbors popped in at some point too, but honestly it’s a blur; I was nervous and am a bit of a lightweight when I don’t eat.  And I hadn’t eaten a thing all day.
After the pre-party festivities, Foster and I left.  Whew.  We arrived at 6:03 (I know this because I was giving him dirty looks for being late to which he shut me up mid-story of his like he always does) and there were a lot of people there already.
And that’s pretty much it.  This is where I struggle with the proverbial “rest of the story.”  I do remember saying out loud a few times, “This is reason #712 why I’ll probably never get married again; the mingling thing is ridiculous!”  While true, I LOVED LOVED LOVED having so many people there with whom to mingle.  I just wish I had more time to properly talk and hang out with them all.  THANK YOU to my family and friends (although that feels so interchangeable at this point in my life) for EVERYTHING throughout the course of this entire journey.  And no, I don’t mean just these last 10-weeks, and no, I don’t just mean a regular “thanks.”  I mean profound gratitude.  I’ll never forget it.
The entire celebration would not have been complete without the people I love in attendance.  When they called my name, I cried.  I cried for all those who have gone through, are going through, or will go through a cancer diagnosis.  I cried for their families.  I cried for closure.  I cried because I could finally eat.  I cried…because I was complete.  And then I cried harder because Liv, upon hearing my name announced, immediately stood up and hugged me with her outstretched arms.
Talk about sweet.  For all the hardships, all the ups and downs, all the “what if’s” line of questioning I pepper myself with when it comes to mothering her – then and now – nothing will take that moment away.
Saying I’m happy to be here seems so simple to read on a page, but really, it is simple.  I’m thankful to have been given a second chance at life. 
And I hope and pray that we have made a difference in Greyson’s, Kellcey’s and their families’ lives, of which, I’m honored to have been a part…if even for just a short time in the journey.
One last time…a heartfelt thank you to all.
We did it!
Thank you.  Thank you all for being here and taking part in this very special night.
Jen instructed each of us to prepare acceptance speeches because two of us would be asked to say a “few” words.  I’m pretty sure by now most of you know…I don’t even know what that means.  But I promise nonetheless to keep this brief.
First, I’d like to give my gratitude and thanks to my teammates, without whom, this entire effort would never have been possible.  Now, mind you, that is not at ALL what I thought going into this.  In fact, when Jen asked me who I had in mind for team members – without hesitation – my answer back to her was, “Nobody.  I’m going to do it all myself.”  Ever the lady and professional that she is, she only smiled and said, “Well…it’s a lot of work.  Let me know if you change your mind.”
Thank goodness I did.  Angela, Stacy, Billy and Travis – thank you guys so much for everything.  I really appreciate your efforts, your ideas, and your constant support.  There are many other friends here tonight to thank as well:  Harker and Deb for the rabbit relocation mission; my new friends from Lucky Harley-Davidson for your amazing support of LLS this year and now, after the campaign, in future years – we’re very excited about that; the other candidates for your relentless efforts these last 10 weeks; and Foster – for all those 5am runs, the myriad of subsequent effects afterwards, and for being my +1 tonight.  Thanks.
I’d also like to thank my IOS family for your loyalty and friendship over the years – especially when I was sick.  You continue to this day, all these years later, to put up with me.  And if that doesn’t say something about the strength of our company, I don’t know what does…
I have friends in this room tonight who have known me almost my whole life.  Literally, we’ve been friends for over 30 years.  We grew up alongside one another, played sports together, went shopping and got in trouble together, learned how to drive and weather broken hearts together.  We went to college together and attended each other’s weddings (sometimes more than once) – so you can imagine the day I had to call not only those best friends, but my parents, and tell them I had leukemia.
Yet telling them, while incredibly hard, was not nearly as difficult as the thought of not being able to watch my daughter grow up – to be her Mom.  She’s here tonight, along with my incredibly supportive parents.  Liv, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me and by far, my greatest blessing.  Without even knowing it, while you were learning to rid yourself of diapers, I was a couple hours away trying to rid myself of cancer so I could get home to you and have the joy of raising you…of seeing you turn into the beautiful young woman you’ve become.  I’m proud of you, and I love you very much.
Whew!  By the way, I’m still working on the brief thing…
Let me tell you a little bit about this campaign and what it has meant.  I had certainly heard of it in the past, but really had no idea what it entailed.  After speaking with Jill and Craig about their experiences last year, I was getting closer to committing.  Then, I readabout Kellcey and Greyson and decided I’d give it a try.  And then I met them.  In person.  And “trying” needed to turn into something more.
These kids and their families are amazing people who have been in the midst of a trial, an emotional roller-coaster, and an uprooted life schedule.  Cancer invaded their homes, forcing them to make that call to their friends and family.   But I can tell you, that the money raised these last 10 weeks, the money LLS relentlessly pursues every day, does make a difference in the lives of patients.  It has given Grey and Kellcey more treatment options, a better prognosis, and more hope than has ever existed before.  And it has given all of us the privilege of meeting them and forming new friendships, as well as opportunities to provide mutual support along the way. 
THAT is what I have re-learned throughout this campaign:  we are all a team, walking the path in this journey of life together.  Sometimes there’s a detour, sometimes we get re-routed, but knowing that there are troops fighting on our side just up ahead…that matters.
Sometimes cancerbecomes that detour in our lives – the one we never saw coming.  Sometimes, we are able to re-route and sometimes, despite all valiant, gut wrenching efforts we are not; and it becomes surreal and incomprehensible.
But what I have also realized throughout this campaign is that both tragedy and victory happens to us, the “better” us…”team” us.  It can’t happen to just one, because we all rejoice at each recovery and we all grieve for each and every setback and loss.
While cancer can defeat one of us, it cannot and will not defeat our collective will.  We have come too far, we have won too many battles, and we are getting closer every day to winning the war. 
Cancer will eventually retreat… because it knows by now, as this evening shows, that we will never give up.
Thank you.



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