Guest Commentary – Teal Circle: We are strong when we stand together

By Frieda Weeks

Search the word “survivor” in a dictionary and the top definitions are fairly black and white. Simply put, a survivor is described as someone who remains alive after coming close to death. Keep reading and you’ll find a bit more depth; survivors carry on despite hardship, cope well with difficulties and persevere through trauma.

If you’ve been a survivor, or love one, you understand that words alone cannot capture the entire complex journey. Dictionaries paint a very lonely picture, but survivors desperately need a strong support system to persevere. Survivors are not simply people who cope well with adversity, they have access to healthcare. As a co-founder of Hope for Heather, committed to raising awareness about ovarian cancer in honor of my daughter, I’ve seen too many potential survivors fall through massive gaps in care.

Women who cannot get regular checkups with doctors, often minorities, are far less likely to learn about or discuss their symptoms. Women in rural communities are often forced to travel long distances to see specialists for effective treatment. Women who do not have a loving caretaker at home struggle to keep up with medication, appointments, meals and much-needed rest.

I created the Teal Circle of Women (TCOW) this year to expand Hope for Heather’s education efforts and shine a light on healthcare disparities through influential women in our community. Within just a few months 30 women joined the circle. Many are small business owners, as we believe small business is truly the backbone of our community. Visit some of our Teal Circle partners, including Fashion Rescue 911, CellaV Boutique, and Studio 663 (just to name a few) and you will readily find our ovarian cancer symptom cards and other information to take home and share.

By harnessing the power of all women, we can save lives and move mountains.

Hope for Heather’s Teal Circle women come from a variety of backgrounds, but share a commitment to making a difference in our community.

Tawn Lombardo runs TMDC Dance Studio. Her Christmas Dance Show raises funds for Hope for Heather through her students, who learn about the mission, the importance of good health and giving back. Each year, a graduating senior is given a dance scholarship in Heather’s memory. This is a great example of the Teal Circle at work.

Alyssa Blazina is our Teal Circle of Women ambassador and a key player in launching TCOW. Alyssa is president and CEO of BizHub CNY, a mover and shaker, and a DO-er. Alyssa helps area businesses and loves to give back in creative ways.

Jennifer Savastino, owner of Gannon’s Pest Control, is a supporter of Teal Circle and Hope for Heather. Jen knows the power of women in our community and uses her voice to elevate our cause.

Letizia Pinkel uses her voice through music. Letizia is our music ambassador and supports us through her music events with the Z Band. Letizia plays Hope for Heather’s teal guitar several times a year and speaks from the stage about the importance of education and ovarian cancer.

The Teal Circle is a partnership between Hope for Heather and women in business who will use their voices to share our education and awareness mission. We ask our members to have symptom and education cards at their place of business, to volunteer and assist at events, to help find event sponsors, and give us a bigger voice in the community. There is no financial expectation. Our mission is to save women’s lives from a terrible disease. Survivors need support, access to healthcare, and hope. We are powerful and strong when we stand together.


Editor’s note: Frieda Weeks is the president of Hope for Heather, an organization named for her daughter whose mission is to raise funds to support ovarian cancer research, to promote education and awareness, and to help to provide comfort to women and their families devastated by cancer.