Guest Writer: Nancy Tonkins, Member of River Queens
Our River Queens group has been assembling for 30 years! It all started with a group of friends who played softball together – some went to the same high school (Kirkwood). We started float-trip and camping weekends back then, overnights on the river. Through the years, various people have joined the group and some have left or moved on. The same “core” people still attend and now invite others. As we’ve gotten older, we no longer camp; we have progressed to condos on various lakes and pontoon boats instead of canoes. We’ve gone with as few as 10 to as many as 32 River Queens. We’ve all formed an amazing bond. And, we’re there for each other – always.
Which brings me to the purpose of this story: we know loss. Unbearable loss. We also know strength and courage and tenacity, as we have been there with two from our tight-knit group who have lost their battles with breast cancer. We have walked in the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure together and have raised money that way. We have given independently to Komen. However, we know there is more money generated when we encourage each other to donate. So we are now trying to collect more as a group.
As we’ve moved forward, we’ve thought about the funds we spend on making our River Queens weekends fun – the silly trinkets, baubles, souvenirs, crazy hats – and we’ve decided that we need to use this money more wisely…to give back in some way. We have decided that any kind of “slush fund” from our trip or any money we raise as part of our internal contests for the weekend should go to breast cancer research and breast cancer support. That’s why we gave to Komen this year.
We hope we may be able to inspire other women’s groups – who organize getaways together, play tennis together, went to high school together, or simply go to dinner together once a month – to join us in finding a way to support others in the fight against breast cancer. And we hope they, like our group, will remind each other to follow breast self-awareness steps and get annual mammograms.
When you sit around the room together, it’s hard to imagine losing another friend. And yet, chances are high that you will. Women know that as they get older, the risk increases. We encourage other groups of friends to consider a way to help fight for each other and fight to end this disease for their children’s sake as well.