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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Someone you should know--Kelly Lance and ScrewCancer

  Today's Guest Blog By Midnight Ryder

Brock Yetso, Executive Director of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF), slid past the open door where Kelly Lance and I were deep in conversation. Yetso backed up to meet and greet me.

Imagine being on the receiving end of a handshake grip from a disarming Sumo Wrestler, except in this case it’s initiated by Brock Yetso: a formidable 6’3” Marathon Iron Man, and former member of the UVA Varsity Soccer Team, US Men’s National Soccer Team and minor league Maryland Mania soccer team. Brock is an indefatigable survivor advocate who lost his Mother to colon cancer a decade ago.

From the moment I walked into the welcoming UCF offices I felt part of the fold and the handshake secures it. Brock departs as swiftly as he appeared. Almost apologetically, Kelly Lance waves towards the interior, “It’s quiet today, folks are in the hospital doing outreach… usually it is frenetic in here,” expressing the office physicality through engaging body language and winning persona.

For Lance, an innovative bi-coastal living arrangement is underway with two weeks in CA and two in MD. Being married to The Director of Sales for The Wine Group has thrown Lance into the thick of career transitions: hers from dual roles as ED Special Assistant/Special Events and Services Coordinator to that of Scholarship Coordinator, and husband Fritz to Wine Group Sales Director out of  Livermore, CA. Lance shares playful glimpses on her enduring marriage, “…we hardly ever argue, unlike the transatlantic Matlin and Carvel…both with very political opposing viewpoints!” In Kelly’s case, opposition to viewpoints comes from Fritz’s basic request for “No more stories during dinner.” Then tosses a Seinfeld quip, “Imagine that!”

Today is a standard June, body-hugging MD afternoon. At the UCF the word standard relates to say chairs. Lance sits half on hers, half off as dedicated storyteller presents: “We get a lot of people in here and on Facebook.  Recently we had a gentleman who is 27 with testicular cancer and no insurance seeking follow up scans after treatment… contact was made with an incredible individual in AA County who networked and enabled him to get free physician scans… everything was fine.  It’s amazing the way this works. Imagine free scans…without intervention an essential piece of treatment would not have happened…” 

Lance is deeply affected by each story, each case and each individual. When asked to describe herself she says she is outgoing and compassionate. She worries about “…not touching enough lives by not being there.” Easy to see how the no story rule evolved at home. When asked if she has been changed by her work she leans in, lowers her voice and exhales “Changed to the soul. Every day someone walks in and puts life in a new perspective.”
For those working at the fund, the reasons why are clear. They have either been touched by the disease or dramatically moved in some way. Take Kelly Schwab, a 2011 graduate of Long Reach HS who demonstrates the spirit. As a teenager, during her mother’s treatment, she started an amazing family support group by teens for teens with Debra Marciniak and Cara Koontz at the Claudia Mayer Cancer Research Center. Getting to the heart of it, Lance moves her head from side to side as if chasing denial, “As a teenager you want to be as normal as everyone else and able to be in a room without the pity eyes.” The word pity is reinforced as she speaks, as if in 48-point type. Today, Schwab’s youth groups flourish statewide through a joint venture partnership between the Mayer Center and Ulman Cancer Fund.

The UCF National Scholarship Foundation is the heart of Lance’s work. The NSF is committed to awarding scholarships to individuals with either a parent affected by the disease or of their own diagnosis. Upwards of 300 ten-page scholarship submissions were received this year, 33 from Howard County. The decision making process is complex. As 750 volunteers review personal stories of impact and need, applications filter to the top. Each with a portrait more compelling than the last, each painting a reveal of the positive impact cancer has had on their lives. After three levels of readings and recommendations, final determinations are then left to the Marilyn Yetso family.

Brock Yetso’s history defines a family story about what moves us. Kelly Schwab is a 2011 scholarship recipient with her own parental story, one that has come full circle to entwine with Brock nearly a decade later:
As Schwab’s scholarship application traveled through the tiered submission process, along with dozens of others, it eventually navigated to the desk of Brock Yetso. At this final stage of determinations, the Yetso family named Kelly Schwab recipient of the Marilyn Yetso Memorial Scholarship Award, as clear testament to “what her family support group would have meant to the Yetso family (back) when Marilyn was sick.”

Financial award resources, to support fifteen $2500 scholarships, were drawn from a $37,500 funding pool banked in-part by Team Fight benefactors. A hard core team of champions embracing demanding triathlons and events on behalf of the cause. The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults stands in recognition of Doug Ulman’s first (of three) very personal battles with cancer as a college sophomore; today the intrepid mother-son team of Diana and Doug Ulman serve as extraordinary Founding Directors.

The foundation is grounded in an inexhaustible supply of stories, education and revenue generating ventures. Parked atop Lance’s file cabinets is an array of wine bottles with screw tops touting Screw Cancer labels, clearly what’s hot in  non-profit décor. The vivid labels are a super savvy, cheeky branding mechanism promoting the recent Screw Cancer Brew Hope campaign. Given the clear lack of beer bottle presence, word has it they vanished during the Screw & Brew event J   And not so coincidentally, this piece of branding genius was fulfilled by Mr. Kelly Lance’s Wine Group, instigator of the family’s transatlantic career move and nouvelle décor.

The Fund’s benevolent ideals are deeply reflected on all matters of course and fields of business operations. In most basic terms, from soccer balls to kicking the odds, the mission of changing one life at a time begins with “…assisting those trying to process what happened.” In the words of Dilbert’s creator Scott Adams, "Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end."

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Anonymous said...

A moving, spirited picture of selflessness. Made me think what I do with my day.

Kay Gueno said...

Ok, its wed night 12;30 am, and I wait for everyone be out of my way so when the house is quite I look all my emails and answer to then.
I receive this article from my friend Rhoda Tobacko very profound, who brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t just read once but I read twice, to be sure I didn’t miss anything. Thank you Rhoda for thinking of me.

PS / Was truly a very beautiful article. Thank you again.