Meet Stella Starr
5 Questions with Stella Starr
by Kathleen Edgecomb
First thing you see when you meet Stella Starr is the shock of hot pink hair and sunglasses. The first thing you notice, however, is her passion. A passion for helping people. A passion for making people laugh and feel comfortable. And a passion for those struggling with breast cancer, its treatments, its after-effects and life beyond.
In 2014 Stella made her first appearance at the Pink Ladies fundraiser at the Twisted Vine in Westerly, RI. Stella works this event each year with fundraiser Julie Holland where proceeds are given to the annual Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut held every year on the first Saturday of October. In her unique way, she urged walkers on and encouraged them to invite friends and family to participate
Stella has become an iconic cheerleader for the non-profit, which was established in 2006. She is friendly with one of the founders (ok, she is co-founder Sandy Maniscalco). While Sandy is more of a behind the scenes worker doing everything from meeting with potential donors and sponsors to organizing pit stops for the day of the marathon, Stella is out there among the masses. She has hints for staying hydrated, keeping energy levels high and just giving encouragement to those training for the walk.
We caught up with Stella recently and asked her five questions.
- First up, why the pink hair and sunglasses? Pink hair? Mary DeVizia made me do it. LOL Mary was the TBBCF Executive Director from April, 2013-January, 2015. One afternoon in late October, 2014, Mary and I were working together in the office getting ready for a week of
breast cancer awareness month fundraisers, when she decided, spur of the moment, to go online and order us pink wigs. We then encouraged Ellen Swercewski to wear a pink wig, and we became the Pink Ladies debuting at the Twisted Vine event. Sunglasses? My idea. Everyone looks good in sunglasses, right? From that point on, Stella has been making appearances at events and walk training sessions.
- Why do you do this? Because I can. Has breast cancer affected you, your family or friends? Short answer, yes! People often assume I am a breast cancer survivor, even though I am not, however, I definitely have been closely impacted by breast cancer and ovarian cancer. My sister, Mimi, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 31 but the great news is she is here celebrating 31 years as a survivor. Since 2003, I have lost many friends to breast cancer, but the most profound loss was my friend, Norma Logan. Norma was a rare one … she made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. She always made me feel like I wanted to be a better person. So, when she asked if I would help her found a breast cancer research foundation, I, of course, said YES. Since she is not here to speak for herself, I feel it’s my job to do all I can to keep her promise to direct all gross donation dollars to breast cancer research.
- In talking with walkers, what do they say is the hardest part about walking the entire marathon, or even a portion of one? Finding time to train. If you commit to the marathon, or even the half marathon, most people understand it won’t be enjoyable if you haven’t
trained for it; but finding time to train is not easy with our busy lives. Still, most walkers who make the commitment (trained or not) will tell you that any hardship they might experience is nothing compared to what a breast cancer patient has to endure. Walkers always tell us they feel well supported and loved during the actual walk thanks to amazing walk leadership and hundreds of committed volunteers. For some people who have never done an endurance event in their lives, accomplishing a marathon can be a life-changing event.
- Some people say they don’t participate in the walk because it’s too difficult to raise a certain amount of money required. What advice do you have for raising money? I don’t buy it! So, my 15-year tried and tested theory is that if you register for one of the marathons and organize/strategize around setting a goal and identifying potential donors, raising funds is not difficult. So, 1) pick an event, 2) commit to a fundraising goal, 3) write about why you are walking; and, 4) make a list of 10-20 friends or family members you can email or snail mail to ask to support your event. Or, you can take advantage of social media and walk fundraiser tools to send out your appeal by placing your fundraiser page link into your post (most of us have more than 20 Facebook friends). If you are on a team, organize a small fundraiser. Still sound daunting? I can help you with that. Watch for announcements for hands-on fundraising workshops. These workshops would really help students who might be interested in forming and walking on a team.
- What if someone wants to participate but they can’t make the actual walk, which this year is on Oct .6, 2018? I hear there’s this thing called a “virtual walk.” What is that? A virtual walk is either completing your walk marathon at one of the volunteer-supported long-distance training walks (up to 20 miles) or finding another way to walk the mileage on your own. Ideally, you want to complete the event since friends and family are sponsoring your efforts.