For Melinda Carson, relationships are key. Whether in her former capacity as executive director of the Sacramento and Northeastern California Make-A-Wish Foundation or as current volunteer extraordinaire for the Albie Aware Breast Cancer Foundation, Carson knows that connecting with the community is crucial.
“Relationships open doors,” says Carson, who has worked with Albie Aware since its inception in 2004 when her husband Doug founded the organization in memory of his late wife Albie, who lost her battle with breast cancer on July 4, 2002.
“Making connections in the community can help you raise money, certainly, but it can also provide an opportunity to do something really special for survivors and their families.”
Carson says that when she and Doug first got together, she was very aware that Albie was going to remain an integral part of their lives. “I was coming into someone’s life after many years of a wonderful marriage,” she explains. “Her family was becoming mine.”
Carson jumped in right away, helping build up the board and selling tickets to events that provide funds for lifesaving services.
Albie Aware is aptly named—it aims to make men and women more aware of cancer-prevention methods and diagnostic tests. (Had Albie received a positron-emission tomography (PET) scan, it could have detected her recurrence more quickly, giving her medical team a better chance to treat the cancer that eventually claimed her life.) The organization also encourages early detection through self-examination and annual mammograms beginning at age 40—earlier if there is a strong family history—and provides financial assistance as well as advocacy when testing isn’t covered by insurance.
Always full of ideas, Carson started new fundraising campaigns, such as Survivor of the Year (which has since morphed into Albie Champions) in which businesses, organizations, families and individuals form teams in honor of their chosen breast cancer “champions” to see who can collect the most donations.
In 2020, Carson and her husband will co-chair the Rose Awards, which have historically honored outstanding volunteers but now recognize people in the community connected with Albie Aware to help share their stories. This year’s recipient will be breast cancer survivor Jim Bowman.
“Our mission has always been to bring testing and assistance to people who either have breast cancer or need testing,” Carson says. “The program side has developed very well, so now our goal is to expand and spread the word about Albie Aware into the communities and counties around Sacramento.”
To do that, Carson is looking to implement events in other counties modeled after successful Sacramento shindigs, such as the annual party put on by Albie Aware volunteer group The Pink Ladies, which hosts a backyard bash in the Fab 40s every year.
“Events open the door to people who have never heard of you,” Carson says.
Which leads to new relationships, of course.