Inspiration and Impact: Highlights from the MTPR 2023 Awards

The breast cancer community in Richmond gathered on October 20 at the Virginia Crossings Hotel for VBCF’s 4th Annual More Than A Pink Ribbon Awards Luncheon. Reba Hollingsworth from WTVR, CBS-6, was our fabulous emcee for this uplifting event to celebrate accomplishments in breast cancer education and advocacy for Virginians. 

We express our heartfelt gratitude to the sponsors whose generosity made the 2023 Awards possible. Our presenting sponsor, Virginia Women’s Center, was joined by Virginia Cancer Institute as our Champion Sponsor; Genentech, Gilead, Novartis, and Pfizer as Ambassador Sponsors; and Myriad, PhRMA, Pink Ribbon Boutique, and Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at HCA as Friend Sponsors. Additionally, our appreciation extends to Bon Secours Mercy Health, Towne Bank, and the VA Academy of PAs, who supported us as Table Sponsors.

Our inspiring keynote speaker was Heather Marie Van Cleave, 2021 Miss Virginia for America, speaker, spokeswoman, actress, entrepreneur, mental health advocate, and breast cancer survivor. She recently battled aggressive breast cancer in 2022-2023 and is currently in remission. She has been inspiring a global audience through her transparency while overcoming obstacles in her own life. Heather Marie spoke about how her diagnosis of breast cancer gave her every emotion you can have. She wanted to make an impact by sharing her story publicly and knew it was important to “be imperfect, be real, and share the good and the bad.” She also implored doctors not to forget about the mental health aspect of breast cancer and how that can impact treatment decisions. 

The 2023 Legislative Impact Award was presented to the Honorable Shelly Simonds (VA-94). State Delegate Simonds has been serving the Newport News area since 2020. Delegate Simonds is the Virginia State Director for the national “Women in Government” organization. At one of their conventions, she learned about the problem of high out-of-pocket expenses for patients who need diagnostic breast cancer services like follow-up mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRIs. These expenses can force patients to postpone additional procedures and delay a diagnosis. We know that early diagnosis and treatment can save lives.  

During the 2023 VA General Assembly, Delegate Simonds introduced a bill to fix this problem. She will continue her work in the upcoming 2024 legislative session to move this important legislation forward with the help of a coalition of breast cancer groups like VBCF and Komen. We are grateful for her leadership and commitment to this issue.

“Breast cancer became real for me when my Mom was diagnosed last year. My Mom, Mickey Simonds, is here today, and she is my inspiration. I jumped at the chance to patron this bill. This is why we run for office. To make a small change that can make a big difference.”  

Delegate Shelly Simonds

The 2023 Community Champion Award recipient was Mimi Nails Spa in Midlothian, VA. For the past four years, the Richmond Times Dispatch readers have voted Mimi Nails Spa as The Best Nail Salon in Richmond. Owner Mimi Nguyen takes pride in her customers being considered family. Giving back to her community is essential to Mimi, who came to the United States almost 30 years ago as a refugee under the Humanitarian Operation from Vietnam.

After losing two clients in less than one year to breast cancer, Mimi knew she wanted to do more to honor her friends and help her community. To raise awareness and help local families battling this disease, in 2019, Mimi and her staff started their annual breast cancer event, where they share VBCF’s educational materials and raise funds. During one fun Saturday in October, ALL proceeds from all nail services go directly to VBCF, and even staff at the salon donate their tips. These fundraisers have raised over $36,000 to support VBCF’s work! Mimi’s biggest hope is that these fundraisers bring awareness to her community so that she never has to lose another great friend to breast cancer.

“Mimi Nguyen is best known for her warm, welcoming smile and big heart to all her customers and friends, but her greatest strength lies in her desire to serve others. Mimi is an inspiring example of an entrepreneur and small business owner who sees a need for action and is willing to step up in a time of need. Mimi and her fantastic staff have joyously worked for years to raise money for VBCF and have significantly impacted our foundation’s ability to carry out our mission. Mimi has often been quoted saying, “When you give, you are more happy.” 

Wendy Blakenship, VBCF Board Member and Mimi Nails Spa client

Dr. Clifford Deal received the 2023 Sherry Kohlenberg Achievement in Healthcare Award. Dr. Deal is an HCA Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute surgeon specializing in breast cancer and melanoma. He is the past Chair of Surgery at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Deal is well-known as a warm, personable, and caring surgeon and a leader in the breast cancer community. He recently served as the 199th President of the Medical Society of Virginia and as President of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation from 2018-19. Dr. Deal served 28 years in the US Army, initially in the 82nd Airborne Division and later in the reserves. 

Dr. Deal established VBCF’s More Than A Pink Ribbon Awards in 2019. He also advocated for creating a Breast Health Provider Summit to bring his regional colleagues to discuss the current landscape of breast health and cancer care provision and how providers can positively impact outcomes moving forward. His idea came to fruition with the Healthcare Provider Summit before the Awards Luncheon. 

We honor Dr. Deal’s passion for caring for his patients and his particular connection to and empathy for those on the breast cancer journey.  

“When Dr. Deal shared my breast cancer diagnosis, he stated, “If you don’t remember anything else that I say, know that I am going to be with you throughout all of this, and we will be connected for life.” That was so reassuring and comforting. It is because of his generosity of spirit and care for his patients that I attribute the fact that while understandably worried by my breast cancer diagnosis, I also felt a sense of calm because I knew I was in good hands. Cliff is open and honest and treats his patients with respect, dignity, and kindness. I am forever grateful that he has and continues to provide my breast health care.” 

Marylinn Minor, VBCF Board Member

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