Woman of the Year Gala
I wanted to take a little time this Sunday afternoon to reflect on the whirlwind of a weekend we had.  Friday night marked the end of a 10 week fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  It was an amazing 10 weeks filled with lots of events, sweat, tears, hugs, and joy.  LOTS OF JOY.  A crowd of over 400 supporters gathered to cheer on the candidates, who had been busily competing over a 10-week period to raise funds for blood cancer research.
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Introduction of Candidates

Candidates raise funds in honor of the Boy and Girl of the Year, who are local cancer survivors and sources of inspiration. Lili McGrath, age 5, and Mason Sheets, age 9 were both diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).  Today both Mason and Lili are in remission.

To date, the man of woman of the year fundraiser has helped LLS invest more than $1 billion in research to advance breakthrough therapies that are saving lives today and helping us all achieve the LLS goal of a world without blood cancers.

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The funds raised through Man & Woman of the Year are used in many ways:

  • The continuing research and development of breakthrough therapies.
  • Free blood cancer information, education and support.
  • To support patients in their communities through our 61 chapters across the U.S. and Canada.
  • To drive policies that accelerate the development and approval of new treatments.
  • To advocate for blood cancer survivors and their families, helping patients navigate their cancer treatments and ensuring that they have access to quality, affordable and coordinated care.

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The Grand Finale

The campaign came to a close on May 8th at Heinz Field where the final total from all twelve candidates was announced and the winners were revealed. 

The gala kicked off with introductions of the candidates, remarks from the boy and girl of the year, and a the start of the silent auction with over 100 items to choose from!  Throughout the evening the attendees were treated to 3 hours of open bar,  delicious appetizers, and entertainment by local musician, Nick Marzock.

Team Fight for Joy set a goal to raise $50,000 to receive a grant named in honor of Emily Leyland, who passed away on August 16th, 2013 after battling AML (a form of leukemia).  Taylor, Emily’s cousin also served as my campaign partner.  To say I am proud of our team is an absolute understatement.We went WELL above our goal.

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Beachbody Family Support the Cause!

How were Team Fight for Joy’s funds raised:

Taylor and Michalene

    Total, Team Fight for Joy raised an astounding $67,864.64 throughout the 10 weeks.   We raised $17,000+ over our goal through a lot of HEARTFELT donations.  That number speaks volumes in terms of the number of people who felt completely connected to the cause.  The power of social media allowed me not only to share my story, but the powerful story of how meeting Taylor, at a fundraiser, changed everything about our lives.

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    My campaign partner, Taylor and I

    I wanted to share a couple of my favorite posts from the event to capture the importance of why I was so fully committed to the cause.

    Taylor wrote, A lot of amazing moments happened tonight…. I think a lot about how crazy every experience is that has happened and how everyone in your life serves a purpose if you allow yourself to see it….

    Tonight, Katy Ursta introduced me to her oncologist- ironically, his wife is also a doctor and was on Emilys transplant team when she was doing her fellowship…. Her sentiments about Emily have been ringing loudly in my mind all night… She said…

    “Emily is one of a kind. There’s a room in the hospital that she frequented…. And a wind chime that she made is still hanging in the window in that room…. I think that says a lot about how everyone felt about her”

    I’ll never forget that moment or that conversation. I could live inside that conversation forever.

    Joy is always a choice.”
    I wrote, ·

    brian mclaughlin oncologist, cancer survivor
    My Oncologist is my Homeboy!
    “Little story about last night.

    I thought for a long time about inviting my oncologist, Brian McLaughlin to the event…. but in true Katy style I got really nervous and didn’t ask. (Did you know that about me… for real.. I get super nervous about that stuff!)

    Well someone asked for me…. because they just knew it meant a lot.

    He’s different. For about a year- I gave him the hardest time.

    Messed with him about working out…
    Not wanting to do treatment…
    Refusing to take it easy…
    Lying to me about losing my hair…

    But he, I knew, just truly cared. I wasn’t just a diagnosis or a case. I mattered to him. My life mattered to him.

    He, simply stated, saved my life.

    Taylor Molitierno captured this moment in a picture.
    I mean really. How can I not be grateful?. The man saved my life, and then took time out of his weekend to celebrate an amazing night.

    And in a crazy twist, his wife, Annie, was a resident and knew Emily, Taylor’s cousin, well from her time at Cancer Center. (See her incredible post about the wind chimes.)

    Let’s talk about how this was a win:

    I was a small part in raising over half a million dollars ($543,130 from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Western PA & WV Chapter alone!) to blood cancer research.

    Taylor and her family will have a research grant named after her cousin, Emily Leyland.

    The Team- ALL OF YOU- were part of something bigger. Over 10 weeks we raised $67,864.64 as Team Fight for Joy.

    That’s from t-shirts ($11,000 ALONE!)
    That’s from rapping ( Jaime Messina)
    That’s from events like the Tim Paul Charity Game, The Super Saturday, The online parties, home parties, the fit clubs, EVERYTHING!!!

    That’s from hundreds of online donations.
    That’s from YOU….


    You matter.
    You are making a profound impact…

    So people like Brian McLaughlin (saying it lovingly…) can go out of business.

    I am not Woman of the Year but I am grateful for the candidate, Jessica Lynn who raised $186,000 for cancer research. How incredible is that?

    Because really every wins when cancer loses.

    Thank you so much for your incredible support and friendship” 

    It is my sincere hope that while you read this, you take an extra moment to acknowledge and choose joy.  

    From the bottom of my heart, 

    thank you!  
    You matter. 


    Everyone wins when cancer loses.


    Let’s write a new chapter, shall we?

    Katy Ursta