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Everyday Heroes: Samantha, Lauren, and Emilie Scalise

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

The Scalise sisters from Smyrna have never forgotten the organization they credit with helping their mom rebound from cancer.

In January, the three will host their seventh annual fundraising walk to benefit the nonprofit TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation in Atlanta.

To date, Samantha, Lauren, and Emilie Scalise -- with help from family, friends, and supporters --- have raised $61,500 for TurningPoint, which accepts patients regardless of their ability to pay.

“I am still in awe of my three daughters and what they created,” said cancer survivor and mom Stephanie Scalise. “I knew my girls were empathetic, but to watch them at ages 11, 13, and 15 turn the scariest and most traumatic time in our lives into a 501(c)3, giving back to the place they said gave them their mom back, is just extraordinary.”

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Stephanie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and had a double mastectomy. Doctors could not immediately do reconstructive surgery because her cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. What followed were eight rounds of chemotherapy, 28 doses of radiation, and a battle with lymphedema, painful and often lifelong swelling that surgery for breast cancer and other conditions can cause.

But Stephanie marked seven years cancer-free last April.

“I’m doing fantastically,” she said recently.

Stephanie works with a personal trainer three times a week and attends fitness classes two to three times a week. She said her lymphedema has been largely under control since 2017, one of the many things she says she owes to TurningPoint.

“I truly believe I would not be where I am today without TurningPoint,” she said. “They were not only there as physical therapists but as emotional support, reassurance, something to look forward to, and normalcy in a time that was anything but normal.”

Her daughters are now making their own way. Oldest daughter Samantha, or Sam as she’s called, graduated from the University of Tennessee summa cum laude. She now works full-time with youth and veterans in adaptive sports through Blaze Sports America. Middle daughter Lauren is in her junior year at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., where she’s editor of the yearbook and a manager with the women’s basketball team. Emilie, the youngest, graduated from The Galloway School in May and is attending Columbus State University. She’s an art major and a member of the softball team.

Despite their busy lives, all three young women are still totally dedicated to their annual 2.7-mile fundraising walk, Strides for Survivors, which starts and ends at The Galloway School, their alma mater, and is on Chastain Park’s PATH. The 2023 walk will be held two weeks early -- on Jan. 21 -- so Emilie can be back at school for the opening day of collegiate softball.

Sister Sam sees the annual walk as “a time to connect with the community that stood by us as my mom was going through her treatments and a place where we can gather to support anyone else in our community going through the same journey.”

She said it also is a time when survivors can come together and say: “We kicked breast cancer’s butt, and now we are taking charge of our lives again.”

Lauren’s feelings about the fundraising walk have changed through the years.

“When we first came up with the idea as a family, it felt like the only thing I could hold onto and channel all of my energy into instead of breaking down crying,” she said.

After three years, she said she started to see it as “a beautiful creation of my family that is an inspiration to others.”

Emilie, who was only 11 when her mother received her diagnosis, said the Strides for Survivors walks “has meant the world to me.

“While my mom was going through treatment, I isolated myself from the situation,” she said. “Now that we have our annual walk, I feel more connected to my family and the whole experience.”

Emilie’s written a book for youngsters entitled “My Mommy Has Cancer, But She’s Still Mommy” to “put into words what it feels like when things change.”

In January, when the next walk is held, Stephanie Scalise will do as she does every year: stand in front of the walkers -- proud and emotional -- and thank them for their support and tell them about TurningPoint.

And she said she’ll be asking herself: How her daughters “were able to create such an inspirational event and give back so much to the community that surrounds them.”

HOW TO HELP

Sign up for the Strides for Survivors walk at Strides for Survivors 2022 (runsignup.com)

Learn more about the walk at stridesforsurvivors.org

Consider donating to TurningPoint at Breast Cancer Rehabilitation - TurningPoint (myturningpoint.org)


WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT

This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead. We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.

And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

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