Volunteer Spotlight: Gail Hayes
With the Wabash Valley Race for the Cure happening in Terre Haute on Saturday, October 8, we are shining the volunteer spotlight on Gail Hayes, one of our Race Co-Chairs.
Gail Hayes’ connection to Komen started in April 1996, when a neighbor passed away after a battle with breast cancer. That fall was the first Race for the Cure in the Wabash Valley, and a group of neighbors decided to walk/run together in memory of Peggy. Her husband and 12-year-old son held a bonfire gathering that night. The neighbor group has grown since, and the bonfire still happens every year, even though Kyle is now a grownup and lives in Indianapolis. Now, that Race team is also in memory of Peggy’s sister, Judy Devine.
In summer 2012, Gail learned she had stage 1 breast cancer, thanks to an annual mammogram. A week after surgery, she went to dinner with three high school friends to celebrate their 30th reunion. Gail learned that night that one of her friends had NEVER had a mammogram and one was three years past due. She was flabbergasted.
“These are educated 48-year-olds! They should know better,” Gail remembers thinking.
She decided this opportunity to become an advocate and raise awareness around breast cancer was the reason she had the disease, and why she had a relatively easy time with it (surgery and radiation only).
“Telling women to get their mammograms and helping to fund them for those who can’t afford them is my mission,” Gail said. “I volunteer because there are still women not getting mammograms and because we need more treatments/cures.”
Gail was learning more about Komen’s involvement in research last year as the honorary Race chair and discovered that Komen research helped determine that Tamoxifen is the hormone to take to decrease risk of returning cancer.
“I’m in year 4 of taking that. If it’s true that Komen helped make this the standard, I’m sold even further,” she said.
This is Gail’s second year as a Wabash Valley Race volunteer, although she has been registering for the event every year since 1996. Not a runner by nature, she affectionately calls the event the “Walk and Chat for a Cure,” since that’s what her friends and her would do. Gail also enjoys the survivor parade, and says the feeling of camaraderie among survivors and those who have lost their loved ones is so apparent.
Her passion for Race for the Cure and our mission is contagious. Last year, in a heartwarming gesture, her son’s baseball team organized a Race team and they plan to do so again this year.
“One of the reasons I agreed to chair the Race this year is the bravery and dedication of Sally Roetker, last year’s Race Chair,” Gail said. “Sally has stage 4 cancer and has fought for, I think, 14 years. Pretty humbling. As busy as I might think I am, I thought if Sally could muster the strength and energy to be chair, then I needed to, too.”
From the whole Komen Central Indiana family, thank you for your contributions! You truly make a difference.