Guest Writer: Lexie Sprague, Komen St. Louis Public Relations & Marketing Intern
It’s May 18, 2015. I’m walking into the welcoming and friendly and entirely pink office that is going to be my second home for the summer. It is my first day as an intern at Komen St. Louis, so of course I am nervous beyond belief. Janet greets me as I walk in. “Hi, Lexie! It’s good to see you again. Come on back, we’re just having a staff meeting.” Oh no, I thought, a staff meeting? Was I supposed to prepare for this? As if I wasn’t nervous enough.
I walk into the back room to an intimidatingly full table, and then spot some mini donuts in the center of it. Okay, they like donuts, so they can’t be that scary. This might not be so bad. We start with introductions, and a small sense of relief washes over me as I realize I only have to remember six names. Helen, Janet, Bree, Kathy, Sandy, Shelby. I can do that. More relief as I realize how comforting it is to know Shelby is going to be interning with me, so maybe we could have some sort of intern-alliance, or maybe our office can be called Intern-Headquarters, or something fun like that. Helen begins to address us. Ooops, I interrupted my own daydream, better focus. “For the first month of your internship, we are going to be solely focused on Race for the Cure, because June 13th will be here before you know it…”
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Fast forward two weeks, the Race is right around the corner, and the office is in full swing (to say the least). I see so many new faces as our awesome volunteers are in and out of the office all day. Gone were the days where Shelby and I didn’t know how to work the phones, use the copy machine, and hadn’t even heard of “Convio” (the database Komen uses) before.
The phone is ringing. “Komen St. Louis, this is Lexie, how may I help you?” I walk to the back room to try and find the answer to the question this caller has. Wow, so many boxes back here, I think, just in time for me to trip over one. When did that one get there?! I finish up with the phone call, and head back to my desk to return to the stack of registrations I was just entering. Crap, where did the one I was just holding in my hand go? Janet steps out of her office and says to Shelby and me, “We’re leaving for the KSDK window around 9:20! Bring your umbrella — it’s pouring out.” What? It’s already Wednesday again? How many days in a row have I worn this purple committee shirt? Should I wash it? I momentarily flash back to yesterday’s conversation when Shelby and I had asked what time to plan on arriving on Race day. Bree had told us, “well… we’ll get to watch the sunrise together!” What could that possibly mean? Oh shoot, no time to think about that now, there’s the phone again.
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June 13. Helen was right; it got here before we knew it. Why is my alarm clock going off? Am I dreaming? It’s 4:00 am, and I’m rolling out of bed. A college student out of bed before the sun: now that’s a sight to see. My phone lights up indicating a text from Shelby, letting me know she’s here to pick me up. I walk out the front door of my apartment into the pitch black morning (is it morning yet?), my purple committee shirt nicely offset by my pink tutu. Ah, there’s Shelby’s car. We hit the road and my mind slowly becomes less fuzzy with each sip of the life-saving coffee provided by Shelby’s mom. We finally get the car parked and find our purple-shirted bosses, throw some pink chalk in our hair, and it’s go time.
Janet gives us our first task of the morning. Shelby and I are racing around the Race site (on a golf cart!), visiting each sponsor tent to make sure we can get samples of the Sponsors’ Square giveaways over to the KSDK truck for them to talk about on air. After this task was complete, we spent the next hour behind stage checking people in as they arrived for their respective stage assignments, looking around in amazement at the massive amounts of people. I momentarily got lost in my own thoughts. All of these people are here to add ammunition to the battle against breast cancer. How cool is that? Finally, the emcee announced that it was time for the survivor procession to begin.
I knew what the survivor procession would look like. Heck, there are pictures all over the office displaying that exact moment from previous years of the Race. But I quickly found out that I didn’t really know.
Front and center, leading this year’s survivor procession was Helen, our fearless executive director, walking hand in hand with Shelby, my ever-inspiring co-intern. This duo was the embodiment of what it means to say “breast cancer knows no boundaries.”
Following them was an absolute sea of pink. And as I stood there awestruck, I thought, this is them. Standing there watching the procession made me realize that these women, and their families, were exactly who Komen is working for. If the frenzy of work wasn’t put in each and every week, both locally and nationally, it’s a strong possibility that not all of those women would be walking in the 2015 procession. Each one of those ladies, dressed in pink, walking down the street to ‘We Are Family,’ found the strength to say “sorry cancer, you picked the wrong girl.” And having even a small, intern-level role in the lives of these women was more than enough to bring me to tears. That procession was the most moving and powerful moment I have seen in my twenty years.
The rest of the day was just as inspiring. Shelby and I found ourselves at the finish line, keeping track of winners, as well as hanging out with the Cardinals’ Wives to oversee that each breast cancer survivor got the pink rose they deserved upon crossing the finish line. Every second I spent on Race day was more than worth it, and I couldn’t believe when it was over and time to go home. I honestly thought I knew what it would be like to be so closely involved with Race for the Cure. But I realize now that I didn’t know the half of it.
That single morning changed my entire viewpoint of the weeks leading up to the Race. The phone calls we received were no longer just questions needing to be answered; each one was now one more person that was able to have an amazing experience on Race day. The forms all over the office were no longer simply registrations or donations; each one was now helping one more woman in need that will be able to go and get a mammogram. The daily whirlwind of activity around the office was no longer simply a flurry of activity; it was a group of absolutely inspiring individuals doing something about their unrelenting passion to end breast cancer forever.
I still find myself reflecting on the Race today. The day was nothing short of incredible and I know that I will be forever grateful to have had the chance to share it with everyone involved. I wholeheartedly hope it is known that whether you wore a purple committee shirt, blue volunteer shirt, or white participant shirt that day, you gave the survivors in pink the celebration that they deserved, and you are the reason that Komen is one step closer to its vision of a world without breast cancer.
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Lexie is a junior at Washington University in St. Louis majoring in marketing and psychology at the Olin Business School. She is part of the Goldman Fellows Program and is a member of the WUSTL Women’s Soccer team and Pi Beta Phi.