Earlier this summer, Em Howard decided she needed to do something interesting in her life, something that would present a new challenge and push her outside of her comfort zone. When she saw a flyer posted on the wall at the West Campus Pool advertising the Women’s Cancer Resource Center’s Swim-a-Mile for Women With Cancer fundraiser, she stopped to take a closer look. “Something just clicked,” Howard said. “I’d spent this idyllic summer with my family and a lot of water was involved — lakes, rivers, streams — and here was this meaningful event that takes place in the water. It just had to be right.”
Still, despite the urging of her nine year-old son, Emmett, a member of the Berkeley Barracudas swim team, Howard was reluctant to commit right away and went home to think it over. Looking up the Women’s Cancer Resource Center online, Howard was impressed by their mission and the incredible array of free services they provide to women dealing with cancer, either directly or indirectly, on a daily basis, year in and year out. In doing her research, Howard realized that the WCRC had been hit particularly hard by the crippled economy and needed all the help it could get. “You know, they rely on donations for their funding,” Howard explained. “When people start to tighten the purse strings, organizations like the WCRC are the first to feel the effects.”
Convinced this was the right event to participate in, Howard was also pleased that it would afford her son, Emmett, the chance to experience the “Value and joy of doing service for others,” Howard said. “My partner and I have always believed in the importance of having our kids understand the necessity of doing service in the community.” Further persuaded by her friends, Kristen Zuidema and Karen Kelley — who round out the four member Team Em & Emmett — Howard set up her donation page and started to fundraise in earnest.
The process has touched a personal chord for Howard. Her own father succumbed to pancreatic cancer before she had a chance to get home to Nevada and say goodbye. “They just didn’t have the same resources back then or know how to cultivate the same kind of family support,” Howard explained. “He was diagnosed very late and there was very little to be done. I never got a chance to really say goodbye and so I never fully dealt with his death. This event is a way for me to finally face that.”
The Women’s Cancer Resource Center will hold its 2011 Swim-a-Mile for Women With Cancer event at Mills College on Oct. 1 and 2 at the Trefethen Aquatic Center. To support Em and Emmett Howard, please visit the Swim-a-Mile website to make a donation.