By Kira S. Jones, Communications Officer
When I emailed JoAnn Loulan to find a time to chat about this spotlight, she replied that she was on vacation, but still available to talk. I wrote back, telling her we could connect another time so she didn’t have to work while she was away. She responded, “this isn’t working, this is supporting Breast Cancer Action.”
And that’s what JoAnn has been doing for the past 13 years – as a former member of our Board of Directors, as a passionate and committed member of the Breast Cancer Action community, as a two-time cancer survivor, and as a fierce activist for health justice. JoAnn is nothing short of super human. And every year, for the past 13 years, she raises vital funding for our work by hosting the Billie Gardner Loulan Memorial Benefit.
JoAnn began hosting the benefit in honor of her mother, Billie Gardner Loulan who died of breast cancer when she was 53 years old, 13 years after her diagnosis. Driven to do something besides worry, and inspired by her mother’s bravery and activism, she began hosting a luncheon around Mother’s Day. In the beginning, news of the benefit spread by word of mouth and through hand delivered invitations that were designed, for the first three years, by Nancy Favier and her husband, Ed Nielsen. There were parties where a small group of women came together to assemble the invitations. Then, they would each take 20 invitations and personally deliver them. JoAnn invited friends and asked them to invite their friends.
The benefit was originally about community—and it still is. According to JoAnn, there are some women who have been at the event every year it’s been hosted—others have come almost as often. The benefit is as much a part of the community as the community is a part of it. Each year, it’s hosted by a different person at a different home in Portola Valley, CA. Most years it’s still a luncheon, but it’s also been an evening event from time to time, and, this year, a dance party. The benefit has not only changed a little over time, it has also grown! It’s now too large for JoAnn and her friends to personally deliver invitations.
But regardless when or where or what time of day the benefit is hosted, it’s always an informative event that introduces someone to Breast Cancer Action and raises money for our organization so we can stay a grassroots funded organization. There’s always a silent auction for beautiful, intriguing, and heartfelt artwork, opportunities for people to fund a Breast Cancer Action need, and a program that makes a personal connection to women at risk of or living with breast cancer in JoAnn’s community.
It’s no surprise that JoAnn’s enthusiasm and ability to bring together family and friends has played a tremendously important part in making the event a success year after year. She brings her community together, and her community, in turn, brings other communities together. It’s a kind of ripple effect that has generated lasting change.
JoAnn’s passion, determination, and joy have changed this world. And, her support of Breast Cancer Action is appreciated so much more than she will ever truly understand.
JoAnn wanted to acknowledge people who have helped make the event possible over the last 13 years by either hosting, supporting, or donating their time, energy or art. Thank you. And to those of you not on this list, thank you, too.
Tam Turner & James Horn
Jennifer & Bill Youstra
Angie and Sam Schillace
Ronny’s family, who always come from NY
JoAnn’s family, her sister, her niece, and her son