From the Desk of Alicia Rowell, Vice President
Last Friday, May 21st, was a sobering day for all of us at AIM. Friday marked one year since Valerie Guild passed away.
She was a role model and mentor for all of us at AIM, including and especially her daughter, Sam, who has competently succeeded her as our president. Each of us who works here has many memories of her leadership and mentoring.
My own include our serendipitous meeting about the newly created vice president role at AIM. I assumed she knew that my husband had been a Stage III melanoma patient and that was why she was interested in talking with me. But she did not know; it was frosting on the cake, so to speak. We hit it off professionally: I was impressed with all that she had accomplished with AIM and wanted to be a part of it. She saw in me someone who could help her achieve the next steps in her vision for AIM. So I left a comfortable career to join Val and AIM—and have never looked back.
The lessons she taught me were rooted in AIM but really about life. Resiliency is one lesson: We spent a long time talking about how she picked herself up off the ground after her daughter Charlie died of melanoma, how founding AIM assisted her in healing from that unimaginable pain—although I think she once used the word “containing” the pain vs. actually healing from it. Focus is another lesson: She was mission-driven. While she knew there were so many worthwhile potential undertakings in the melanoma world, she was relentlessly focused on AIM’s mission, believing it to be the most likely to yield the results we all want: to end melanoma. Prudence: She worked in the financial world before Charlie died, and she was wise and cautious with AIM’s financials. Simultaneously, she was extremely proud of AIM’s ability to do so much with less funding than larger organizations. Graciousness: Even when others chose not to be, she was always gracious. Especially when others chose not to be. Finally, she had a wicked sense of humor: She knew to survive and thrive we all need one.
That Val died during melanoma awareness month is an irony that I’ve thought about a lot. For us, it means that this month is even more meaningful than it already was. In May, we preach prevention, early detection, support, and—always and most critically—research, but we also mourn those we’ve lost, Val included. For those who have lost someone to melanoma, we send our sincere condolences and mourn with you.
Then, as May ends, as Val would push us to, we refocus on our mission—which is above all else to support research—in order to end this disease in our lifetime. Please join us.
AIM at Melanoma Foundation