Three generations raising money for breast cancer research

Annual walking marathon ties families together, raises money for TBBCF


Emma Cote cheering on walkers at the SAVA Pit Stop
Emma Cote cheering on walkers at the SAVA Pit Stop

Emma Cote was just a little girl when she started volunteering with the staff of SAVA Insurance at a pit stop for the Terri Brodeur Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut to honor her aunt, Deborah Mullin, who died of breast cancer in 2009. Young Emma would greet walkers who were raising money for breast cancer research wearing butterfly wings and waving a fairy wand.

Emma Cote running 2022 half marathon
Emma Cote running 2022 half marathon

Emma is now a 14-year-old high school student at Bacon Academy, who this year recruited two classmates and ran the half marathon for TBBCF’s 17th annual Walk for a Cure. When the teens arrived at the SAVA pit stop at Goshen Firehouse in Waterford, where Emma had cheered on walkers for the last leg of the walk, another little girl was there offering encouragement. Emma pulled out the wand she had raised for so many years and passed it on to 5-year-old Ava Carrier, the granddaughter of SAVA employee Christine Spivey.

There are now three generations of volunteers from SAVA, who have been helping TBBCF for more than a dozen years.

“It’s all emotional,” said Christine Spivey. “We’re going through a transition and we’re letting everyone know – kids, families, everyone can get involved.”

Deb Mullin was working at SAVA Insurance when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She introduced her co-workers to the newly formed Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation and encouraged everyone to get involved. The office mobilized and volunteered for pit stops, gave sponsorship money and walked the event. They brought family and friends to help. They called themselves the SAVA Soul Sisters. Deb passed away in 2009. Later that year, the foundation inducted Deb and her SAVA co-workers into the TBBCF 27th Mile Club for “going the extra mile”. Click here to read “TBBCF Welcomes Deb Mullin and SAVA Insurance to the 27th Mile Club.”

Beth Mullen Ava Carrier at 2022 SAVA Pit Stop
Beth Mullen and Ava Carrier at 2022 SAVA Pit Stop

Christine Spivey brought her daughter Amber Carrier, and eventually, Amber brought her daughter, Ava Carrier to help.

Deb’s daughter, Allyssa Skelton, has participated, as has Beth Mullin, Deb’s sister-in-law, who always brought her daughter Emma Cote. Emma was the cheerleader at the pit stop, encouraging walkers to the finish line.

“She wore the wings and had the fairy wand. She was a symbol of hope to the walkers, telling them “You can get to the end,” Beth Mullin said.

Volunteering for the organization and raising money for research has been a family affair for years, Beth Mullin said. Everyone clears their schedules on the first Saturday of October to help with the walk. Her mother, and her brother and his girlfriend, also volunteer. One of the most important aspects of the event is that the family is all together. Something her sister-in-law, who died in 2009 at the age of 36, would have been happy about.

“Then we go to Chili’s,” Beth Mullin said. “It’s the one time of year we all set aside our crazy schedules and get together.”

Over the years she believes her family has raised more than $10,000 for the foundation.

“I love the Terri Brodeur foundation,” she said. “It’s so much easier to get donations when people know that 100 percent of the proceeds are going to the cause.”

Dave, Donna and Debbie Yother at 2022 Walk for a Cure Finish Line
Dave, Donna and Debbie Yother at 2022 Walk for a Cure Finish Line

Donna Yother, president and owner of SAVA and a long-time foundation sponsor, eventually joined the TBBCF board of directors, and her daughter Debbie Yother took her mother’s place on the board a few years ago. Board meetings are held in the SAVA office in Waterford.

“I think Deb would be very happy we’re still involved,” she said.

“She would have appreciated what we’re doing,” Christine Spivey added. “This is personal for us. But it’s a good feeling.”

Donna Yother said SAVA is still deeply involved with TBBCF.

“Our whole office is committed,” she said. “Our only solution is finding a cure.

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