Priorities include finding new sponsors

By KATHLEEN EDGECOMB

For the past 10 years, Amy Caster has walked a half marathon to raise money for the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation. For the past two years, this breast cancer survivor also joined the Walk Leadership Team for the annual Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut helping set up pit stops along the route. And while she’s always wanted to do more for TBBCF, she felt it was so well-run there wasn’t much left for her to do.

Amy Caster and Sandy Maniscalco at the TBBCF office (Photo by Sean D. Elliot – The Day)

That was until co-founder Sandy Maniscalco, who has headed up the non-profit in many capacities since it all begin in 2006, decided to step back from most of her duties.

Caster, who is a clinical research compliance manager at Pfizer Inc., saw an opportunity. In March, TBBCF Board of Directors hired Caster to be the part-time director of development and outreach. She will also oversee the website and e-marketing committee, communications and social media committee, and the events and promotions committee.

“I want to build on the amazing work that’s already been done,” Caster said during an interview at the TBBCF office in New London. “There’s no way to fill Sandy’s shoes … but I can focus on getting more sponsorships and say with every piece of me that this is the place to put your money. I absolutely believe in the mission.”

TBBCF was founded in 2006 by Maniscalco and her friend Norma Logan and named after Terri Brodeur of Old Saybrook, a young mother of three who died from breast cancer in 2005. Logan was also diagnosed with breast cancer and died in 2006. One hundred percent of gross fundraising dollars goes directly to breast cancer research. To date, TBBCF has awarded $4.4 million in grants to young researchers who are looking for a cure and studying ways to better treat the disease.

“The work they do here is wonderful,”  Caster said. “There’s something about working with this organization that gets to you in your gut … everything about this organization impresses me.”

Patti Burmahl, secretary and past president of Board of Directors, said Caster will be a great addition to the TBBCF team.

“She has a strong business background and is passionate about our mission to find a cure for breast cancer,” Burmahl said. “She has volunteered with us in the past and impressed people with her energy and teamwork. I’m excited about the new ideas she will bring forward to help TBBCF continue to grow so we can find a cure for breast cancer.”

Amy with her daughter, Grace

Breast cancer is also personal for Caster. She had already been committed to the walk for several years when, in 2011, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She told her doctors that her treatments had to fit in with her annual half marathon walk. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation were scheduled around the October walk.

She said her breast cancer diagnosis came from “out of the blue” and made her work with TBBCF so much more personal. She knows what it’s like to recover from surgery, face her “tattoos” from radiation treatment, battle the toxic effects of chemotherapy and look at her bald head in the mirror. She’s seen the pitying looks from strangers, but also found strength from others who acknowledged what she was going through and urged her on.

“Being diagnosed changes you completely,” she said.

Caster said she wants to build on the work that has already been done at TBBCF and focus on bringing in new sponsors. She plans to meet with all the group leaders and hear about their responsibilities, their favorite thing about being part of the TBBCF organization and any wish list they might have.

“Getting to know each person is a huge priority for me,” she said.