Sue Ryan didn’t have a mentor to help her through breast cancer treatment 28 years ago. “Back then it was a disease no one talked about,” she says. “There were no outreach programs.” Ryan wants to do her part to make sure that women today have someone to turn to, so she became a DBCC peer mentor. In the past six years she has mentored more than 20 women.
“Their eyes light up when they hear how long I’ve been a survivor,” Ryan says. “If I can support someone with breast cancer and help her get through it, make her see that it’s not all gloom and doom, then that’s what I want to do.”
“One of the things that sets Sue apart is her passion to help survivors and to help in the fight against breast cancer,” says Cheryl Doucette, a DBCC program manager in Sussex County. “I can always count on her to help out.”
In addition to mentoring, Ryan helps breast cancer survivors through a new DBCC program she developed, called Bosom Buddies. She collects prostheses, bras, bathing suits, wigs and hats donated by Yellow Daffodils, a store in West Chester, and supplies them to uninsured and underinsured women. Ryan does many other tasks, including chairing this year’s Silent Auction Committee for Southern Lights of Life.
Carol Knotts and her sister, Bev Michel, have other talents to share. A one-time DuPont Co. executive, Knotts garners sponsors, advertising and donations each year for the Northern Lights of Life fundraiser. She has raised an average of $100,000 annually for the past 10 years. Michel is a professional photographer, and each year she photographs the breast cancer survivors who model at both the Northern and Southern Lights of Life and gives each one a portrait as a gift.
“I started volunteering after my mother died from breast cancer,” Knotts says. “I wanted to help others and create more survivors. I chose DBCC as the organization I wanted to support because I was so impressed with DBCC’s focus on helping people and with the impact they have locally. The money raised here in Delaware and the surrounding area stays here in the local community.”
Volunteers like Ryan, Knotts and Michel make it possible for DBCC to engage in a tremendous amount and variety of outreach efforts. They staff the DBCC table at health fairs, give talks to community organizations, act as peer and clinical trial mentors, help plan and publicize events, advocate with legislators, raise funds, stuff envelopes, staff the Great Stuff resale shop and perform many other tasks.
“We have a tremendous army of volunteers in this state who support DBCC in any way they can, and it’s because of them that DBCC is able to accomplish as much as it does,” says DBCC executive director Victoria Cooke.