Susan G. Komen is where the end of breast cancer begins, and our volunteers – whether they are stuffing envelopes, coordinating a gala or crewing a 3-Day® event – are the lifeblood of Komen and our mission. Their passion and desire to help end breast cancer forever is at the forefront of all they do, and without them Komen couldn’t have become the global movement it is today.
We have many different types of volunteers. Some are working on behalf of their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers or friends. Some are giving back because they have undergone their own breast cancer journey. No matter who they volunteer in honor of, each is a valued member of the Komen family.
Stephanie (Steph) Atkins of Philadelphia began her journey supporting Susan G. Komen almost 30 years ago as a Race For The Cure® participant. In 2005, she began volunteering as a 3-Day Crew member and hasn’t looked back. Steph does all this in memory of her mother. At just two years old, Steph lost her 36-year-old mom to stage IV, metastatic breast cancer. Diagnosed while Steph was in utero, her mother bravely underwent treatment, doing everything that she could to be able to watch her daughter grow up. “Being so young when she died, there’s a lot I don’t remember about my mom,” says Steph. “The 3-Day became a place to talk about her and learn what she went through.”
In 2011, Steph learned about an opportunity to volunteer as a 3-Day Youth Corps Captain. The Susan G. Komen 3-Day Youth Corps is a select group of 10-to 16-year-olds who participate as crew members on the event. In many cases, Youth Corps members have lost a loved one to breast cancer. Steph had already been volunteering for kids who lost a parent, so this felt like a natural progression. Little did she know that the Youth Corps would become her family.
“We’re providing a safe place where the kids can talk to each other and have a support group,” explains Steph, who has been a Youth Corps Captain for the Philadelphia 3-Day ever since. “Cancer affects the whole family. Growing up, there wasn’t anyone in my friend group who understood what I was going through. It’s hard to talk to someone if they don’t have any way to relate.” Being a Youth Corps Captain is Steph’s way of giving the support she wishes she had.
In addition to volunteering her time for Komen, Steph helps her Youth Corps team fundraise and also raises money herself each year. “I’m not a doctor or a scientist. I won’t be directly curing cancer, but growing up without a mom sucks, so this is how I can help Komen find the cures,” says Steph. “I started my work with the 3-Day Youth Corps because of my mom and now the list of reasons why I stay is so long.” This 3-Day season, Steph and her Youth Corps team are expecting to break $200,000 raised throughout her tenure.
Newly married, Steph is now a stepmom to 5-year-old Evie. “Next year I will be the same age that my mother was when she passed away,” she says. “I’m alive and there’s so much I can do. I want to be there for my daughter’s entire life.”
Stephanie’s story is just one of many that exemplifies the passion of our supporters and volunteers, and their dedication to Susan G. Komen and its mission. To her and the thousands of others, we thank you. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for your donations. Thank you for your time and efforts. Thank you for being a part of where the end of breast cancer begins.