Sisters raise nearly $50,000 to help Mother, others rebound from cancer

Stephanie and DJ Scalise and their daughters Samantha, Emilie and Lauren started and run Strides For Survivors, which benefits TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation. The daughters have raised nearly $50,000 since the beginning of the project. 
Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

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Stephanie and DJ Scalise and their daughters Samantha, Emilie and Lauren started and run Strides For Survivors, which benefits TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation. The daughters have raised nearly $50,000 since the beginning of the project. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

The Scalise sisters from Smyrna fight back tears when talking about the day six years ago when their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Samantha, Lauren and Emilie were only 15, 13 and 11. Mom Stephanie was 43 and had just seen her own mother through treatments for the same disease.

“It was a very difficult, emotional time,” said Samantha, now a senior at the University of Tennessee. “And while Mom was the one diagnosed with breast cancer, our whole family felt the effects.”

In recent years, the Scalise sisters have chosen to focus on how thankful they are that their mother hasn’t just survived – but has thrived – since her double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, and other recovery challenges. And they are channeling their gratitude into fundraising for a nonprofit that Stephanie Scalise says was integral to her recovery.

Since 2017, their annual Strides for Survivors Walk has raised nearly $50,000 for TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation in Atlanta, which takes patients regardless of their ability to pay.

“TurningPoint is an amazing place,” Samantha said. “As we say, it gave us our mom back. She was able to be happy on her way back to being healthy. And it was also a support system for us.”

Lauren wrote an essay for her high school English class on how she felt the day the doctor’s office called with the cancer diagnosis as she and her mom were heading to pick Samantha up from softball practice.

“I remember that moment very vividly still even though it was like six years ago,” said Lauren, currently a sophomore at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.

She hadn’t expected to be asked to read the essay to her class. But, when she did, her words sparked an outpouring from other students who had or were going through similar experiences.

“I realized at that moment that talking about it wasn’t going to be enough,” Lauren said. “We had to do something.”

At the family dinner table, she broached the idea of turning the family’s gratitude into action. From that developed the 2.7-mile annual fundraising walk around Chastain Park’s PATH that starts and ends at The Galloway School, where Emilie is a senior and Samantha “Sam,” and Lauren are alumni.

In August 2015, doctors removed Stephanie’s cancer but couldn’t immediately do breast reconstruction. The cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and was upgraded from Stage 1 to Stage 3. By April 2016, she had eight rounds of chemotherapy, 28 doses of radiation, and treatment for lymphedema, painful arm swelling related to cancer or its treatment.

TurningPoint gave her opportunities for body and mind renewal, with physical therapy, nutritional counseling, exercise, and much more, Stephanie said.

“I am fantastic, and five years – almost six years – cancer-free,” she said. “I am as active as I’ve ever been, as healthy as I’ve ever been.”

And the walk has indeed become a family affair. Emilie is in charge of promoting the walk on social media. Lauren takes care of the website and designs a new walk logo each year, while Sam takes care of the day-to-day and creates the raffle and silent auction baskets. All three sisters share in the duty of organizing donors and volunteers. Mom Stephanie organizes permits and donations and starts the walk with survivors. Her husband DJ and her father, Sandy Gruskin, take on the heavy lifting that has to be done on walk day and are the walkers’ biggest cheerleaders.

And Lauren is still thinking about what to do next. She hopes to establish a branch of the walk at her college in Spartanburg.


MORE DETAILS

2022 Strides for Survivors fundraising walk

Saturday, Feb. 5, with registration at 10:30 a.m. Registration fee is $25 until Jan. 1, $30 from then until the day of the event and $35 on walk day. The walk starts and ends at The Galloway School. It is 2.7 miles around Chastain Park with a shorter walk for survivors who cannot make the full look. All proceeds go to TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation

Read more about TurningPoint at www.myturningpoint.org