After losing her husband to cancer, Darienite helps others
Published 4:35 pm, Thursday, March 17, 2011
Cancer. For one Darien resident it couldn't have come at the worst time as she split time between hospitals and raising her two children while pregnant with a third.
Erin O'Toole was exposed to the harsh reality of how cancer can impact a family when her mother died from breast cancer when she 16 years old. The battle didn't end there because O'Toole's husband was diagnosed with brain cancer 10 years ago. O'Toole and her husband spent the next years traveling to different hospitals as they explored treatment options. While dealing with her husband's cancer, O'Toole was also pregnant with the couple's third child.
"We spent a lot of time in emergency rooms and I actually ended up giving birth to our daughter while my husband was in the hospital," O'Toole said.
During the numerous trips to hospitals around the area, O'Toole had the opportunity to get more involved with the individuals who were responsible for her husband's treatment. That experience led O'Toole to accept a position at Stamford Hospital as the manager for Hope in Motion.
Even though her husband died, O'Toole, who was raising three kids at the time by herself, decided to get back into the workplace.
"My initial interest in raising money for cancer centers started when my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer," O'Toole said. "When he died four years ago, I started raising money by hosting charitable golf outings."
O'Toole raised about $150,000 through the charitable events with the help of Team O'Toole, a group of family members and colleagues who supported her family during her husband's battle with cancer.
"Basically everyone who was at our wedding is a member of the team," O'Toole said.
The decision to take a position managing Hope in Motion came after a friend passed along information about the fundraiser.
"The fundraiser has never had one person focus exclusively on this event," O'Toole said. "It's a really wonderful community event."
Hope in Motion raises money for additional services, such as transportation, that aren't usually included with a cancer patient's standard treatment, O'Toole said. O'Toole's husband was treated at Stamford Hospital and she said the staff were very supportive.
"We were at Stamford and I was pregnant at the time and my husband was partially paralyzed and it was near the end," O'Toole said. "Everybody made sure we were comfortable and our experience was nothing but positive."
"Last year we had over 4,500 participants and the goal this year is to raise over $1 million," O'Toole said.
The event takes place June 5 which is National Cancer Survivor's Day and involves a 5K walk and run and a bike portion, O'Toole said.
"Typically we see people from Fairfield county who participate but we do have people from all over the region," O'Toole said.
Hosting charitable events isn't new territory for O'Toole but she said she is still working on nailing down the logistics of the fundraiser.
"This is my first year and there is a bit of a learning curve," O'Toole said.
However, O'Toole said she plans to remain as the manager for Hope Floats for years to come.
"I intend to keep doing this for years because it's about getting completely involved," O'Toole said. "I'm here to be an advocate for the hospital."
Getting involved in your community and advocating for events such as Hope in Motion is an excellent way to help provide treatments for cancer patients.
"Raising money has been one of my biggest initiatives since my husband died," O'Toole said.