Shout out to The Day for coming out to our last training walk and writing such a wonderful article about TBBCF! Ann Baldelli not only wrote our entire story in one article, she managed to wrap our spirit into it as well.
Published September 23. 2021 10:07AM | Updated September 24. 2021 7:47AM Photographer: Dana Jensen/The Day
By Ann Baldelli
John LaMattina, the retired former president of Pfizer Global Research and Development, still remembers his conversation with the late Norma Logan when she recruited him to help with her fledging nonprofit that would raise funds to help find a cure for breast cancer.
That was early in 2006, and on April 20 of that year, Logan succumbed to complications from breast cancer, but not before establishing the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation and enlisting a core group of volunteers to carry on her mission after her death.
Since then, the grassroots TBBCF has raised $5.1 million to fund 51 researchers investigating breast cancer cures and patient treatment options. Almost all of the original volunteers that Logan, a Pfizer employee, recruited, are still doing her bidding.
LaMattina sits on the nonprofit’s volunteer, scientific advisory board, which annually reviews dozens of grant proposals to make awards to young scientists doing cutting-edge research.
“We specialize in people who are just starting their careers,” he said. “This fellowship is usually a springboard to start a career in cancer research. … We try to build a network of researchers, and we tend to fund fellowships that are a little bit more out there, more exploratory, a bit more speculative, and to bulk up the number of breast cancer researchers.”
It was Logan’s directive that every dollar raised by the foundation go directly to research and that administrative costs be covered by sponsors. The group’s signature fundraiser is its annual Walk for A Cure, held the first Saturday of October every year. Participants may walk a full, half, or quarter marathon, or do a 5K, and commit to various levels of fundraising. This year’s walk on Oct. 2 will be the 16th, as the inaugural walk was held the same year Logan died.
But there are a host of other fundraisers throughout the year, from private businesses doing special events to supermarket promotions, golf tournaments, and ice cream socials.
Stacy Gualtieri is a founding board member and the nonprofit’s treasurer, and the TBBCF’s office is located in her workplace at Doherty, Beals, & Banks PC in New London. Like many of the others, she has walked or volunteered every single year.
Logan clearly knew what she was doing when she recruited her original team, Gualtieri said.
“She picked people who she knew would stay the course. She was very clever,” she said.
“Norma had a passion, and she hooked me in,” said Gualtieri. “She made me see the need, and even though she’s gone, I can’t let her down. We are making a difference. It’s a slow march, but what we are doing, we are helping to extend people’s lives and we are making a difference in the cure rate and the length of time people live with breast cancer. We are looking at ways to foresee breast cancer in people. We are looking for markers that will make you aware if susceptible.”
Sandy Maniscalco was Norma’s friend and co-worker, and co-founded the TBBCF.
“Because of her work at Pfizer, Norma knew that research money was difficult for people to get their hands on,” said Maniscalco, who added that, if she were alive today, Logan would be very pleased to see the accomplishments of the scientists being funded by the TBBCF.
She named her nonprofit for Terri Brodeur, a mother of three who died in 2005 at the age of 41 from breast cancer. Brodeur’s husband worked with Logan at Pfizer, and the two women bonded as they each battled their disease.
Today, others like Barb Avery of Old Lyme participate in the annual walk every year because they have family members and friends who have been touched by breast cancer.
Now 67, Avery has completed 14 full and one half-marathon for the foundation.
“If I can do it, anyone can. I am the most unathletic person in the world,” she said.
Avery explained that back in 2006, before the first marathon, she read a newspaper story promoting the 26.2-mile walk that stated: “If you can walk a 20-minute mile, you can do this.”
She was sold. She and a friend planned to walk, and when the friend dopped out, she did it anyway.
“It’s the most amazing organization. The people are wonderful. There’s the most amazing camaraderie on walk day. Everyone is so friendly. And really, it’s the volunteers who do all the hard work,” Avery said.
That’s people like Doug Hoyt, who has handled logistics and set-up for the walk’s closing ceremonies every single year. Terri Brodeur was his sister-in-law.
It was Tim Brodeur, Terri’s late husband, who got Hoyt involved.
“He roped me in, and now I do it as a commitment to Terri and Tim,” said Hoyt. “I want to see it continue. It’s a small, locally run charity whose soul drive is to fund research and come up with a cure for breast cancer. And all the information that I see that comes from the scientific community, it does look like there are some significant advances. But at the end of the day, science and medicine and cancer are proving quite difficult.”
Jean Logan, Norma’s sister-in-law, and her family are dedicated volunteers, too. Jean said not a single day passes without her thinking about Norma and her nonprofit vision.
Norma Logan established the foundation when she learned that $80,000 of the $200,000 that she and her friends raised when they participated in walks hosted by a similar, established organization had gone to overhead and not to research.
“She wanted 100% to go to research to eradicate breast cancer,” Jean Logan said. “When she first started, she wanted to eradicate it in five years, and it’s kind of sad that 11 years after that, we are still here. But we are, and we have worked really, really hard, and we will keep working.”
All of those who knew Norma and volunteered to work on her little nonprofit said they continue to be inspired by her.
“She was a force to be reckoned with, and she had a direct impact on all of us. Our hard work, all we have done, that’s Norma’s vision and her direction,” said Maniscalco.