Henrico County VA
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Bittersweet triumph

LLS Man of the Year deals with personal tragedies
When Kevin Shimp was asked to become a candidate for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Virginia Chapter Man of the Year, his initial reaction was that he could not possibly say yes.

Not only was he working 50-hour weeks during the March-to-May campaign period, but the busy father of two teenagers was also attending graduate school full-time.

Becoming a candidate meant he would take on the equivalent of another part-time job for 10 weeks to raise funds for blood cancer research.

At the same time, however, that Shimp’s rational inner voice was telling him he could never fit such a task into his already-packed schedule, a louder voice was telling him there was no way he could say no.

As a clinical coordinator on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at VCU Health Systems, Shimp says, “I see the effects of leukemia and lymphoma on a daily basis.” 

His wife, Jill, a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse at VCU, cares for patients that often end up in his transplant unit.

But the clincher for Shimp was that his father-in-law, Billy Snead, had been diagnosed with leukemia three years earlier.

And so, Shimp’s heart won out over reason, and he found himself saying yes.

A resident of the Shenandoah community near Willow Lawn, he was soon ringing his neighbors’ doorbells and asking for contributions.

“The feedback is incredible,” Shimp says. “The people that you meet and get a chance to talk to. . . People would hand me money at bake sales in honor of their friends, parents, and siblings.”

At one neighbor’s door, he was met with a “no soliciting” – but just two days later, the same neighbor dropped a check in his mailbox.

And within seconds of sending out his first email request for donations, Shimp received a pledge of support from a co-worker.

Shimp also organized benefit nights at local restaurants and The Byrd Theatre, asked for auction items and solicited corporate sponsorships in addition to donations from friends and family. He appreciated that many businesses were especially generous despite the tough economic times.

“I realize there are a bunch of causes,” he says, “but the response you get is unpredictable and overwhelming. Chuck Irving from Charles Irving Construction set me up with bowling leagues to get donations, and talked about [the campaign] as much as I think I did.”  

Stepping up
Then, midway through the campaign, Shimp lost his father. John Shimp – the first family member who had responded to Kevin’s fundraising e-mail – passed away of complications from diabetes.

As if all the other challenges in his life hadn’t been enough, Shimp now had to bear this additional crushing burden of grief. But he packed up his family and headed to New Jersey for a week to deal with funeral arrangements and help his mother through the loss of her husband of 47 years.

Upon his return to Richmond, says sister-in-law Sande Snead, he plunged “into yet another fundraiser – just two days after burying his father.”

Shimp says now that he could not have made it the rest of the way through the campaign without the support of Jill and other key supporters -- among them his mother-in-law Evelyn Snead, former LLS Woman of the Year Susan Reid, and Emily Tucker, a retiree from Media General.

What’s more, he says, “my boss Pattie Viscardi graciously looked the other way when I was doing things on the job.”

He notes that before his father took ill, he had planned to set up a booth at the annual Easter Parade in Richmond and use it to sell sock monkeys and raise awareness for the cause. Abandoning the idea to head to New Jersey, he says he got a call en route from Forrest Sprouse, a Henrico H.S. IB freshman. (Shimp’s daughter Casey is in the IB program; his son Logan attends Tuckahoe M.S.).

“[Sprouse] said, ‘I know where you keep your key,’” Shimp recalls. “‘What time and where do I need to be on Easter Sunday to run your table for you?’  

“He raised money that day,” says Shimp, “but more importantly he just did what good people do every day and don’t get recognized for it – he stepped up.”

Ups and downs
On May 13, at the gala culminating the annual campaign, Shimp learned that he had been the top male fundraiser – earning the title of 2011 Man of the Year for the Virginia Chapter of LLS.

It was a bittersweet moment for Shimp and his family, as he shared the sad news with the crowd of well-wishers that his father-in-law’s leukemia is no longer in remission.

In another sad and ironic twist, it turns out that the 2011 Young Lady of the Year – one of the blood cancer survivors that the annual campaign honors – has become one of his patients.

Although Allison Rippy was declared cancer-free last fall after five months of chemotherapy, her non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma resurfaced in January.

But there were lighter moments at the gala, too, as Sande Snead points out.

“In an overzealous effort to raise funds for the cause,” says Snead, “my family actually outbid each other for a week at our own beach house at the fundraising auction.” 

And while Shimp’s schedule has eased in the months following the campaign, he has no plans to rest on his Man of the Year laurels. Raising awareness of LLS has become a part of him.

Although cancer is no longer the taboo subject it once was, he believes there needs be much more openness about the disease.

“Getting donations was nice, and proved to be successful for my campaign,” Shimp says. “But the key is for that same person to tell 10 people they donated to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and why.

“We need to be comfortable discussing [cancer] so that we can feel like its downfall is possible.”  

Citing the list of supporters that ranges from his wife to his boss to students like Sprouse, he adds, “One thing something like this teaches you is that almost everything is bigger then you are, and doing your piece to make it better for someone else is just an awesome feeling on a daily basis.  

“And I had inspiration around me at all times.”

For details about the Virginia Chapter of LLS, visit http://lls.org/aboutlls/chapters/va .
Community

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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The Children’s Hospital Foundation Four Mile Walk/Run will start at 8:30 a.m. at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Brook Road Campus. Walkers and runners of all ages can participate… Full text

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