Steps Against Melanoma: An Interview with Cindy LeBlanc, AIM at Melanoma’s National Director of Walks & Events

By Vallerie A. Malkin

Cindy LeBlanc, National Director of Walks & Events, AIM at Melanoma Foundation

Thanks to an army of loyal and dedicated volunteers and participants, Steps Against Melanoma—AIM at Melanoma’s Walks and signature fundraising events—raises a significant amount of money each year for melanoma research.

Just six months into 2019, AIM Walks are off to an impressive start, raising nearly a quarter of a million dollars so far, with funds still coming in weekly from Spring walks.

Spring Walk locations spanned the country and included cities such as Dallas, Texas; Eureka, Illinois; and Laguna Niguel, California.

Walk proceeds are directed to AIM’s research initiatives, such as the International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium—a collaborative, fresh-frozen primary tissue repository and a global first in melanoma.

Launched in April, the IMTBC brings together six esteemed institutions—four in the U.S. and two in Australia—to collect the tissue and perform much-needed melanoma research on that tissue.

AIM is fiercely protective of research dollars and prefers to be as lean as possible on overhead so more can be given to research. Indeed, AIM is proud to say that in 2017, we gave 92% of our net dollars raised from Walks to research (our 990 for 2018 will be ready in a few months, and we will update these numbers then).

We interviewed our own Cindy LeBlanc, so our readers could learn more about Steps Against Melanoma. Cindy is AIM’s National Director of Walks & Events, a role she has held for just five months, taking over from Jean Schlipmann, who retired on at the end of January 2019.

Why are AIM Walks so important?

Each Steps Against Melanoma Walk raises funds for melanoma research, spreads awareness, and puts us one step closer to a cure.

The tissue bank is so important for melanoma research. I can’t tell you the number of researchers who have heard about it and asked how to apply for tissue. There is no other collaborative fresh-frozen primary tissue bank for melanoma in the world. We know that the primary tumor, and therefore this bank, are critical for research. AIM is so excited to be leading this effort, and we thank our donors—Walk donors and other donors—for making it happen.

Where are Walks scheduled for 2019?

Fall 2019 Walks are scheduled in Seattle, Washington (August 17); St. Louis, Missouri (August 24); Alameda, California (September 14); Watertown, New York (September 15); Houston, Texas (September 21); Louisville, Kentucky (September 29); Milford, Michigan (October 6) and Atlanta, Georgia (November 2). And our partner foundation, Chicago-based Skin of Steel, hosts their Walk on September 29th.

Is there room for growth?

Absolutely. I am asked that question a lot. We are always looking for more cities, more volunteers, and more engagement. Besides raising critical research funds, AIM Walks serve to educate attendees about melanoma prevention and early detection. Both of these goals are so important.

What about 2020?

AIM is already planning for 2020, which is shaping up to be a ground-breaking year for the Walks program as new Walk locations are added—many of them big cities, such as New York and Los Angeles.

Big cities are a new challenge and are exciting for us because we’ve not done so many Walks in major metropolitan areas. We want to grow the Steps Against Melanoma program in larger cities so we can reach a broader audience and educate more people on prevention and early detection.

But big city or small city, the basics are the same: Volunteers are the key. And I want to be sure to say something to our volunteers.

What would you like to say to the team?

Walks attract loyal, returning volunteers and participants—both individuals and teams—from all over the country. This spring, the AIM Walks attracted over 500 volunteers, one reason the events are able to raise so much money.

We have a fantastic volunteer base for our current Walks, and we are grateful for the dedication of this group.

And we have some coordinators who have been involved with AIM for a long time. While I’d like to list every single volunteer in this article, I want to specifically thank Alice Klunck, Stephanie Bowen, Pat Klein, Lisa Huntley, Peggy Alteri, Linda Alford, Jenn Hoffman, Cathy Law, and Tricia Edwards, who have been Walk coordinators for many years. Thank you for everything you’ve done and for welcoming me into the AIM world.

So big cities and more walks are on the horizon for AIM. What else?

We just launched the ability to do a Virtual Walk as part of any of our physical Walks, so even if you don’t live near one of our Walks, you can still help raise funds for research. And last year we launched a DIY fundraising component on our website; now we can help support just about any fundraiser someone wants to host.

And our amazing Facebook fundraisers need a shout-out: These individual fundraising campaigns have raised an additional $34,000 for AIM research initiatives just in the first six months of 2019.

How does someone get involved?

If you like organizing and want to help raise funds for research, I’d love to talk with you about hosting a Walk for AIM at Melanoma.

And if a Walk isn’t the best choice for you for one reason or another, there are plenty of ways to help AIM raise research funds. As I noted earlier, Virtual Walks, DIYs, and Facebook Fundraisers are three ways to put yourself out in your community to raise funds for research.

Please contact me at Cindy@AIMatMelanoma.org if you are interested in raising funds for melanoma research.

Any last words?

Yes: Thank you again to EVERYONE who is a part of AIM Walks.

Please keep me informed.

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