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Join the Army
Over the long haul, there's little chance Lance Armstrong will be best remembered for his contribution to popular wrist wear. Which isn't such a bad thing. It's the symbolism that counts here, anyway.
“A lot of people know the yellow wristband, but they don't know what's behind it,” says Michelle Maroot Diebert, who helped start the Fresno/Clovis branch of the Livestrong Army in August — just in time to catch Armstrong himself riding through town as part of the Amgen Tour of California. Stage 4 of the event winds through Clovis Feb. 18.
As means of support, anyone who donates blood at any of the Central California Blood Centers (Fresno, North Fresno, Visalia or Porterville) today will a get a free Livestrong t-shirt, and gain race-day access to “Livestrong Alley,” on Pollasky Avenue in Clovis, where they can watch the racers speed toward the finish line.
The Livestrong Army is the local, grassroots component of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which was started in 1997 to inspire and empower those affected by cancer while bringing people to the fight to find a cure (for those living under rocks, Armstrong is a cancer survivor).
Their motto: “unity is strength, knowledge is power and attitude is everything.”
Maroot Diebert knows this first hand.
In 2007, her brother Matthew died of lymphoblastic lymphoma, at the age of 29. He served on the Heritage Fresno board and was all about downtown preservation.
Around the same time, her friend Judy Clifton (and Judy's husband Bill, who's in the Mo Fo Party Band) lost a son Marty to cancer. He was 27. The pair attended the Livestrong Summit this summer and were so inspired, they returned home and got right to work.
Just for reference, nearly 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Today alone, 1,500 people will die from it. For the year, that number is projected at 560,000.
Still, most people associate cancer with children or older adults. Younger adults — those under 40, those Matthew's or Marty's age — often get trapped in a no-man's land between pediatrics and adult oncology, where there's lack of insurance, low participation in clinical trials and delayed diagnoses. Survival rates for this group have not increased since 1975.
They are the orphans of cancer.
“We wanted to find a group that focused on young adults,” Maroot Diebert says. The LAF has a Young Adult Alliance that deals with their specific struggles. Like finding clinical trails. And knowing it's OK to ask for a second opinion. Or a third, Maroot Diebert says.
So far, the Fresno/Clovis Army has 100 or so members and is working to build a presence and exposure by partnering with the Central California Blood Center and hosting fundraising events, including a possible concert in October to coincide with national Livestrong Day.
“Anyone, anywhere can be part of our Livestrong Army by joining us in our efforts to support the needs of people affected by cancer,” Maroot Diebert says.
So, join the Army Fresno/Clovis by going to http://my.livestrong.org/joinlocalarmy, and adding FRESNO/CLOVIS. Or you can visit www.livestrongfresnoclovis.webs.com, or www.myspace.com/livestrongfresnoclovis.
* Livestrong Blood Drive (for the Amgen Tour of CA)
Donate at any of the Central California Blood Centers' four locations in Fresno, North Fresno, Visalia or Porterville by Feb. 13, and receive a yellow Livestrong Fresno/Clovis t-shirt that will grant you exclusive access to “Livestrong Alley,” Feb. 18 to watch Lance Armstrong in the Tour of California in Old Town Clovis.
* Tour of Hearts
Featuring the Livestrong Army
Feb. 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sierra Vista Mall, south parking lot