Woman of the Year candidate raises funds for cancer research

Published 11:49 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Debbie Hawkins personally knows the importance of cancer research and hopes to raise money to fund further efforts.

Although Hawkins had to watch her mother battle acute myeloid leukemia, which carries a high mortality rate, she also witnessed her overcome it through a treatment from a clinical trial.

“Mom battled the disease for about a year … but because of research, a clinical trial worked for her and she’s been in remission for 15 years since.” Hawkins said. “She’s very fortunate to be living.”

Her mother’s form of leukemia creates abnormal cells, which accumulate in the bone marrow. Hawkins said many people in Shelby County have been touched by the disease, noting Columbiana resident Scott Armstrong, who’s currently in remission, and the passing of former Probate Judge Patricia Fuhrmeister.

Now, Hawkins is participating in the Birmingham Man & Woman of the Year campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

She draws her inspiration for doing so not only from her own mother’s battle, but also from the lives of Carolyn Thompson, a kindergartener at Briarwood Christian School, and 7–year–old Garrett McDonald. These kids are the Girl and Boy of the Year for the society. Doctors diagnosed Thompson with acute lymphocytic leukemia when she was four. She is currently in remission and will end treatments next month. McDonald was diagnosed with ALL T-cell when he was almost 3. He underwent two years of chemotherapy and 10 days of radiation. He finished treatments three years ago next month.

The campaign for Man and Woman of the year kicked off March 12 and ends May 14 with a grand finale celebration at B&A Warehouse.

Between now and then, Hawkins hopes to raise $15,000. She plans to do so through the help of friends.

“This year is such a different year for fundraising because of the economy,” Hawkins said. “It makes it tough, but I’m going to try and do it with small donations.”

Hawkins plans to raise much of her money through coworkers at Alabama Power. Hawkins is the area manager over Columbiana, Calera, Pelham and Leeds. She hopes to offer events like pizza lunches to employees to make small steps toward her goal.

Other candidates include Mike Brown of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP; Jerry Chambers of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama; Marcie DeBardeleben; Elizabeth Reich Pittman; and Debbie Hawkins of Alabama Power Company.

Individual tickets for the grand finale event are $100 each. Corporate sponsorships are available for $500, $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000. For more information, e-mail rachel.harris@lls.org.

Hawkins needs to raise the money by mid–May. To help her do so, visit alab.llsevent.org/Debbie.