by Chris Brewer
Road trip, anyone? That was the operable phrase for the 90 staffers here at LIVESTRONG as we embarked on a ?Tour of Texas,? visiting examples of the many direct services we provide as well as advocacy efforts and one of our great corporate partners, too. The tour was part learning experience and part team building as only three days on the road can accomplish, leaving Austin Monday for San Antonio and Houston, then heading to Fort Worth and Dallas before the return leg to the HQ Wednesday afternoon.
?This was not only an amazing experience for the staff,? said Michael Nestor, the trip organizer, ?but it was really great to have it completely provided through corporate sponsorships and in-kind donations, so no individual donor dollars were used at all.?
After showing up at oh-dark-thirty Monday morning, the staff boarded two buses and rolled south to San Antonio. Our first stop was the UT Health Science Center where we were greeted by one of our own Board members, Dr. Amelie Ramirez. It was here that we learned about the progress of their work in the fight against cancer, as well as hearing testimonials about the solid effectiveness of two of our programmatic efforts, the LIVESTRONG Artist in Residence program and the LIVESTRONG Promotores program. Soon after we were back on the buses and headed downtown where we celebrated the soon-to-be-enacted Smoke Free San Antonio legislation. SA is the 7th largest city in America and this was a great victory in the fight to make all of Texas a smoke free state!
As the road trip rolled on we were headed east down I-10 to Houston and the MD Anderson Center. No rest for the road weary as we hosted a party for the pediatric oncology ward at MDA before finally calling it a day, knowing there was an early start on the schedule. Reporting back to MD Anderson for a breakfast meet and greet, the staff was soon ?back to school? as we joined the MDA staff in a state-of-the-art lecture hall. Here we heard from prominent cancer researchers as well as people working in cancer survivorship, getting a real feel for the whole cancer continuum: research, prevention, diagnosis / treatment, and post-treatment experiences. Following a spirited Q&A session the staff was split into six groups and toured the MDA facility, seeing the center in action in a variety of settings.
The epic leg of the road trip was now on as we rolled North by Northwest to Fort Worth for dinner in the famous Stockyard area and some inspiring words from Texas Senator Wendy Davis. After a restful night we were off to serve, breakfast that is. The entire team went to the RadioShack HQ to say a heartfelt thank you for their great partnership that has so far resulted in over $8.5M in the fight against cancer, as well as many other great relationships and partnerships. Fully amped from the combined pep rally and breakfast, we then got the chance to see our LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program in full effect. We heard how the Y is executing the program, but more importantly words from cancer survivors who had benefited from it. Hearing that this program literally changes lives, and then sitting in through the meditation portion of one of the classes really drove home just how important this can be to someone transitioning from treatment to the new normal of their lives after cancer. And for the staff it was also a welcome time to stretch out some muscles and get in a work out before one more stop.
Heading back towards Austin, we made our final stop in Waxahachie, a southern Dallas suburb, to pay an unexpected thank you to Texas Representative Jim Pitts for his work in the fight. His 2-time cancer survivor / District Director Dinah Weable accepted a signed LIVESTRONG Manifesto from the staff on his behalf and then we were out of the Texas heat and back on board. Three more hours on the road and we rolled into LIVESTRONG HQ. Three days, two buses, 90 staffers and 800 miles under our belts with lots of great memories, many shared experiences, and a lot more understanding of how LIVESTRONG is making a difference in the lives of the people we serve!