History of the Cherry Blossom Breast Cancer Foundation
Our organization was founded in honor of Cheryl Clayton Atkins, whose childhood nickname was “Cherry Blossom”. Just before her death in 2003 at age 53, she asked her husband, James P. Atkins, to do something to eliminate the disease and to help its victims. In late 2006, he did that, with the assistance of Mary Jo Jackson, Lizanne White Driskill, and Sandra Lynn Atkins. Since then, the Cherry Blossom Breast Cancer Foundation has raised, then granted, hundreds of thousands of dollars to Northern Virginia organizations that either assist women to detect breast cancer, treat breast cancer, educate women on the benefits of early and regular mammograms, and research the disease’s elimination.
Our grants have allowed local hospitals to purchase digital mammography machines and stereotactic biopsy systems and to provide uninsured women with mammograms and surgery. These grants have also helped fund research into new ways to prevent and treat breast cancer and help women undergoing treatment to meet their living expenses.
Fundraising for the grants is primarily through sponsorships of the annual Fall Cherry Blossom Walk, Run, and Pooch Prance for Breast Cancer, titled in Middleburg, “Nanette’s Walk”, in honor of another breast cancer victim, Nanette White. Cherry Blossom Walks have also been conducted in Leesburg, Ashburn and Warrenton.
The Foundation has always been run by volunteers and the unpaid Board of Directors; salaried administrators or directors have not been utilized in order to keep expenses low. Our annual overhead or operating expenses-accounting, tax filing, mailings, website, etc.- has been approximately 10%, compared to several times that for other non-profits.
Middleburg is the home of Cherry Blossom Breast Cancer Foundation (aka Cherry Blossom), and in 2010 a local leader, Elaine Burden, organized the funding and planting of eight cherry trees in the courtyard of the Middleburg Community Center. Each is dedicated to the memory, or in honor, of women who died from, or are currently battling, breast cancer. Every Spring thousands of cherry blossoms fill that courtyard, reminding us all of the hope of new life and the elimination of breast cancer.
In 2011, we decided to annually recognize individuals, groups, or organizations that have significantly contributed in Northern Virginia to the Foundation’s goals. These “Cherry Blossom Champions” are recognized each Spring and have included nurses, doctors, breast cancer service providers, and local leaders.
The year 2011 also saw the selection of the founder of Cherry Blossom as a Northern Virginian of the Year. This recognition was, he confirmed in his acceptance, the result of the success of the dozens of women and men who voluntarily gave their expertise and time to the Foundation’s effort to help local women.
Recognizing the benefits of teaching young women the importance of the awareness of their own health, to give the Foundation Board the viewpoints of young women, and to provide non-profit experience to these future leaders, in 2013 the all-girls Foxcroft School was given three full-voting seats on the Foundation’s Board of Directors; two students and one faculty/staff member. The Head of School then, Mary Lou Leipheimer, was in tears of appreciation when she accepted the offer and said that she believed such an opportunity did not exist anywhere else in the United States. Each May, one girl graduates from the Board, and from Foxcroft, and is replaced by another girl. Foxcroft School also is the permanent home of the Middleburg Cherry Blossom Nanette’s Walk, Run, and Pooch Prance in which the school’s staff, faculty, and students have been staunch supporters and participants. The school also contributes the proceeds of its annual Think Pink Hoops inter-school basketball tournament to the Foundation.
CBBCF has benefitted from strong community support for over 10 years and pledges to continue to work to improve the lives of individuals and families who are impacted by breast cancer.