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Fighting cancer even when you don’t have it… meet a man on a mission to save the lives of women everywhere

March 3, 2014
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Photo by Colin Stapp

Fundraiser Steve Ballard discusses his experience of surviving his wife’s fight with breast cancer and the people that inspired him to Climb to Fight Breast Cancer. Steve talks about his role in raising the necessary resources to end the unnecessary suffering for victims and families impacted by cancer.

Interviewer: So you said this is your first experience with Fred Hutch’s Climb to Fight Breast Cancer. How did first come across this organization?

Steve: Well, my wife was diagnosed with cancer two years ago in September. We had really fantastic doctors and specialists. I mean, just amazing doctors that really looked out for her in a very personal manner. After we got to a point where we thought we were kind of out of the woods, we knew what our journey was going to be, and I really felt it was important to pay it forward by becoming fundraisers.

Fred Hutchinson climb for the cure

Plus, I love to be outside. I love to hike and I love to climb. So I just Googled it. I thought, “There’s got to be something where you could do something for breast cancer research, and you can also go climbing.”

So I just started looking around and I came across this place. Climbs are held locally and it’s an hour and a half from where I live. So it all kind of worked out.

Become part of our mountain climbing community

Interviewer: Nice. So what’s been your impression of the climb organization so far? Have they been easy to work with?

Steve: They’re absolutely fantastic even though this is the first charity climb that I’ve ever done.  Everybody you work with, in terms of getting involved, have been great. Right after I signed up for the climb, the event folks reached out to me just to say “Welcome and thank you.” It’s a lot of motivation when you decide to participate that actually makes you want  to come back and do another climb. I’m going to try to do Rainier next year, actually. That’s my goal.

Creative Fundraising Ideas

Interviewer: That’s cool. So will you do your own fundraising in order to make that Mt. Rainier climb?

Steve: Yes, I will.

Interviewer: What kind of techniques are you using to raise funds from either your local community or your social circles?

Steve: Everything that I raised in the past came from friends and family, and actually a couple of the doctors that we know.  And my wife actually contributed as well. So I didn’t seek out any kind of corporate fundraising. I come from a big Irish family, so there’s a lot of people we could reach out to, and that’s what we did. I should have you read my page, because we really put a lot of effort into it.

Interviewer: Your Facebook page?

Steve: No, I created a climbing web page where I told the story of everything that happened during my wife’s battle with cancer, and it seems to really resonate with folks. Then I go and update my page every couple weeks or so. I’ve been busy training and getting ready for the climb, so that gives me more of a story to tell people about what’s going on with us.

My entire family reads it and it kind of encourages people to go out and contribute a little bit more. It’s actually amazing because in the last two or three weeks, I’ve actually raised a great deal of money. I hit my goal back in January. But we’ve just kind of kept pushing through it, and I think as of today, I’m real close to raising $3,700.

Thinking Outside The Box

Interviewer: I like it. That’s awesome. So at my company we do a lot of technology development, and a lot of marketing efforts. Is there anything that we can do for you to make it easier in the fundraising process; things such as education, widgets, or tech gadgets?

Steve: One of the things that I wanted to do was to include a business card when I send out Christmas cards, because we’ve got a big family. The card would include the address to my web page. But I couldn’t find anything in the resource guide where I could print out business cards. So I think, if there’s a way to put a link to a business card resource like that on the climbers’ page, it would be really useful.

Climber Steve Ballard during snow school on Mt. Hood.

Climber Steve Ballard during snow school on Mt. Hood. Photo by Colin Stapp.

Because that’s what I ended up doing on my own. I just kind of made my own and put them in with my Christmas cards, so it was another way to remind people. It’s a good time of year to ask people to support the cause. I think that would really work because I’m not the kind of person who likes to go and ask people for money. That’s really hard for me to do.

So that’s sort of a non-pressure way to raise money without calling people up or constantly sending them an email. Just stick it in the greeting card at Christmas time.  Like I said, that’s usually the season when a lot of people handle their annual charity donations.

Starting Snow School

Interviewer: So this is your first time with this organization and this is your first time on Mt. Hood. Can you tell us about the snow school? Was that an educational process for you? Was that a challenge? Are you feeling better after taking the class?

Steve: I haven’t taken snow school before, per say, but I’ve been in a couple of climbing schools because I’ve done a couple of other climbs.

There’s a buddy of mine that and we’ve done some other hikes together. But this is the first time we’ve ever done anything that’s specifically snow school. It was great. I mean, I think it’s tailored around the right mix of people, because obviously you’ve got some folks who have done all kinds of stuff.

But I think it kind of hits the middle spot between folks that are new to this and those who are more experienced. I’ve seen this before where you go to other places where, if folks are experienced, they might shrug their shoulders or kind of look down on those who are somewhat new. It can be kind of intimidating for beginners.

But you know I never saw any of that kind of thing with the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer group. Everybody really bonded, and everyone was helping each other out. Lots of great tips were being passed back and forth. So, yeah, the snow school is great. It really is.

Underlying Motivations

Interviewer: So Steve, can you please share what truly motivated you to participate in the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer?

Steve: Well everyone from the radiologists to the surgeons to the plastic surgeons and the nurses inspired me to participate.  I have never before seen the level of care or understanding they provided. Again, what was most important to my decision is that I felt a need to pay it forward, because I’m sure that not everyone has the same positive outcome we did.

The main point is simply to raise awareness while you’re raising funds. One of the things I read on the website was about the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and some of the fantastic things they’ve done. They have three Nobel Laureates, I think. They started with bone marrow, then transplants and they’ve pioneered a lot of new breast cancer treatments. I mean there’s just  some really incredible stuff.

From a personal standpoint, I was reading about the guy, Fred Hutchinson, who the Center is named after. I think it was his brother who actually  started it in his name, because his brother died of cancer. I mean it kind of hit close to home, and I put that in one of my blogs.

But to answer your question, raising more money is a way to make sure that we can find a way to get rid of this disease, because it’s awful. Secondly, we need to support more doctors and nurses and radiologists like the ones that we met. If my efforts helps to get that done, even if that’s just through awareness, so be it.

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