Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A LOVE, A FIGHT & A CAUSE! A Conversation with Gayela Bynum, Founder & Chair of WE WILL SURVIVE CANCER!


The Savvy Event Guru had the wonderful pleasure of sitting down with Ms. Gayela Bynum, Founder & Chair of the organization WE WILL SURVIVE CANCER.

From the day that I met Ms. Bynum in April 2018,  Ms. Bynum has been nothing but sweet, kind and generous. 

The Savvy Event Guru: Thank you Gayela, for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview for me.

Ms. Gayela Bynum: Your most welcome!

The Savvy Event Guru: Okay so let's begin. ☺

The Savvy Event Guru: Where are you originally from?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: I'm originally from Oklahoma City, OK.

The Savvy Event Guru: Okay wonderful! What would you say are 3 of your BEST personality traits?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: Hmmm...My 3 best personality traits....The first is my "learned ability" to forgive others – it was a really hard and difficult journey for me to get to the place where I could forgive – I finally got there by understanding that if I expected God to forgive me for my sins, I had to forgive others.  We’re human; not one of us is perfect and not one of us should cast stones. The Second is my ability to "Accept" that I cannot control what others think about me and it’s none of my business.  My mother always said you cannot make someone love, like or respect you! And last, the fact that I respect and love beauty, intelligence and kindness, which also draws me to people who share those same traits.

The Savvy Event Guru: WOW! Very well said! Thank you for being so transparent and so real with your answer. Many people would only go to the surface but you went so much deeper. I appreciate that. Thank you.

The Savvy Event Guru: What would you say inspires you?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: There are many things that inspire me. There's Art and then there's Music.  Beautiful, strong, kind, intelligent and independent women and men inspire me as well.  I am also inspired by People who aren’t part of the herd in thought, word or deed; people who give back to their community in some way and people who truly RESPECT others regardless of race, color, religious or political beliefs.

The Savvy Event Guru: I am glad you mentioned giving back.  I think that it's important to give back to others.  To Whom Much is given, much is required. I believe wholeheartedly that we are here on this earth to serve others in some capacity.

The Savvy Event Guru: What would you say that you’ve done in life, that has prepared you for what you do now?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: That’s a super question, Stephanie.  In my early life, I was classically trained in music and art.  During my freshman year of college, I met what I considered at that time to be the most gorgeous and intelligent man I had ever seen.  I eventually married him following my sophomore year of college.  After we graduated, he joined the Navy and became a pilot.  We had two gorgeous sons and when my youngest turned two, I started working at the US Naval Air Station in Pensacola FL.  As a Navy wife, I learned to cook and became quite proficient in entertaining and moving.  Because of major life changes, I eventually moved to Washington DC (by myself), and began working in the Pentagon.  I loved working at the Pentagon and picked up a job on weekends working in reservations at the Watergate Hotel. In the evenings I went to school to learn RealEstate and eventually got my license.  But, I wanted to do more that reflected the artistic side of my personality, so I pulled on the skills I had developed as an art student and Navy wife and began planning and organizing events that turned into doing (amazing) fundraising events on Capitol Hill for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.  It was a different time in those days and would be impossible today as the controversy and dissension would not allow it!  For me, however, it was a fun and really heady time, giving me an opportunity to meet and become friends with members of Congress and celebrities who participated in their events.  I was becoming entrenched in the heart and soul of the city of the world, Washington DC, and I loved it!

The Savvy Event Guru: Omgosh, not only are you kind and very caring but you are also a "MOVER & a SHAKER". I am elated and very grateful to you, for sharing your story with me. You have a ton of experience with planning events and your experience has allowed you to reach so many different groups of people.

Ms. Gayela Bynum: ☺Yes it has, Thank you so much and your very welcome.

The Savvy Event Guru: So let's now talk more about your organization.

The Savvy Event Guru: What influenced you to start the WE WILL SURVIVE CANCER organization?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: My daughter-in-law, Michelle Tull Bynum was diagnosed with advanced Stage III breast cancer in September 2005.  She was 32 years old, a new mother with a 13-month-old baby.  Obviously the diagnosis was devastating to her as she should have been diagnosed while she was pregnant with Reid when she first discovered the aberration in her breast, however her doctor told her not to worry, she was too young to have breast cancer and her body was going through changes because she was pregnant.  Following her diagnosis, instead of hiding under the covers, Michelle, her sister and her family rallied and gathered a group of friends and formed Team Michelle’s Angels and walked in the Austin Komen Walk in November.  Michelle and all, raised over $25,000 in two months – I formed a team in DC to walk in the Haines Point event at the same time in support of Team Michelle.  In the ensuing years, Michelle raised over $125,000 for Komen Austin.  In 2009, Michelle was named spokesperson for that year.  She came to DC to raise money and several fundraising events were arranged for her by tu-anh, Lisa Spoden in her Capitol Hill townhome and the Capitol Hill Club.  Money’s were raised for Komen.  Additionally, friends involved in planning those arranged fundraisers collectively began what is presently named We Will Survive Cancer 501(c)3 Charity.

The Savvy Event Guru: Michelle sounds like a very strong woman. I love the fact that Michelle did not allow her diagnoses stop her from working, raising money and awareness for Breast Cancer. The the work that Michelle has done is incredible. 

The Savvy Event Guru: When was WE WILL SURVIVE CANCER organization officially started?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: WWSC’s official start date was August 2009

The Savvy Event Guru:  How does WE WILL SURVIVE CANCER help the Community? What events do you participate in or put on aside from your gala?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: As in every start up, WWSC wanted to provide financial assistance to persons living with and affected by cancer.  The exorbitant cost of one's treatment can cost $10,000.00 plus and eventually drains one financially.  What we quickly discovered was, we did not have the funds to provide such assistance. In our first year, WWSC put together a couple of gift baskets for two families at Christmas.  The following year we were able to gift, 10 families at Christmas.  Last year in our 10th year, we gifted 117 families totaling 580 people.  In 2018 and 2019, we were able to almost double the number of families we gifted because of two generous grants from Macy’s.  In 2019 WWSC received an equally generous grant from the employees and management of QVine corporation in Fairfax VA.  Additionally, TigerLily Foundation partnered with WWSC in our “Making Spirits Bright,” program which allowed us to exponentially increase the number of families we could support.

The Savvy Event Guru: The work that WWSC has done thus far is very admirable.  You've touched so many people's lives. ☺
The Savvy Event Guru: What other organizations are affiliated with WE WILL SURVIVE CANCER?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: WWSC works with Life With Cancer, associated with INOVA of Fairfax VA, Howard University Cancer Center, VA Oncology in Newport News and Norfolk VA, Nueva Vida, National Breast Foundation, TigerLily, eFocus Media Group, The Umbrella Syndicate, CopaStyle Magazine, Keula Binelly Cuisine and Savvy Sexy Social, WDC50, International Gem and Jewelry Show, QVine Corporation, Hotels at Sea, Macy’s, D2DTV, Grandiosity Events, and so many wonderful individuals who have provided support and guidance through our now 11 years.

The Savvy Event Guru: Wow! WWSC has been very productive over the last 11 years.

The Savvy Event Guru: So tell me a little more about the Annual Gala that WWSC puts on. How long have you been putting on your Gala for WE WILL SURVIVE CANCER?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: 
WWSC’s 1st Gala was in 2014 and at the first gala we honored Greg Babcock, who is on the board for WWSC and also a Cancer Surviver

The Savvy Event Guru: Very nice.
The Savvy Event Guru: What does the WWSC gala include? 

Ms. Gayela Bynum: The event consists of a cocktail hour, dinner, remarks from the Chair, Keynote speaker, recognition of persons who have supported WWSC during the year or ongoing years and the special presentation of WWSC’s Celebration of Life Honoree.

The Savvy Event Guru: Who are some of the phenomenal people that WWSC has honored at past events?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: WWSC has been celebrating the lives of cancer patients who embody the words of Michelle Tull Bynum – “Don’t Waste My Cancer,” and “Eat Life With a Big Spoon!”

WWSC’s Honorees include:
Greg Babcock – 2014
Touraine Lynch – 2015
Ginger Vuich, Founding Member We Will Survive Cancer – 2016
Sher Mathew – 2017
Steven Gaffney – 2018
Maimah Karmo - 2019

The Savvy Event Guru: Where are the galas generally held?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: McCormick & Schmicks in Tyson's Corner hosted the first year event in 2014, follow by year 2, 3 and 4. WWSC’s 2018 event was held at the National Press Club.  Last year’s 10th Anniversary was held at The National Museum of Women in the Arts.  We may have to take a pass in 2020 which is totally up for grabs right now.

The Savvy Event Guru: Okay very nice! So it sounds like the WWSC gala event has grown over the years along with the amount of support from different organizations.

Ms. Gayela Bynum: Yes it has indeed!

The Savvy Event Guru: What message do you want others to take away from the WWSC gala event?
Ms. Gayela Bynum: Cancer is a devastating diagnosis that can lead to death, incapacitation and /or major health destruction, but rather than be destroyed, one can take the diagnosis and make something of it which is what my daughter-in-law did.  She was an inspiration.  In the early days after going through her own 5 hours of chemo treatment she would drive young women home from their treatment because they had no support from their own families.  Many of their husbands had left them because it was “Not what he signed up for!”  This left them without insurance, transportation, money and no HOPE!  Michelle, knew she was fortunate because she had major support from my son (her husband), her family and friends.  I was so shocked to learn this news from her and could never forget that she became an advocate for other young women! She made lemonade out of the worse lemons, I could imagine! 
The message is - Cancer does not have to be the end to life – My goal is to highlight that person/Honoree and highlight their inspiration and how they have gone over and above their diagnosis to do good for others and the community in which they live!
The Savvy Event Guru: OMGOSH, I am in tears now...The fact that Michelle thought so much of others, to help transport young women to their appointments because they had no support, after her own treatment is beyond amazing. An ANGEL in Disguise. Michelle is truly an inspiration. Thank you for sharing this information. This is a phenomenal message for others to take away.

The Savvy Event Guru: So, what’s NEXT for WE Will SURVIVE CANCER?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: A very interesting question for these beginning months of 2020.  The Sunday before everything closed down, because of COVID19, WWSC was in partnership with the Washington Wizards.  The idea was to host families living with cancer at the Wizards vs Miami Heat game, March 8, 2020.  Then everything changed; the following week we began working from home, games were postponed and eventually cancelled and suddenly life was turned upside down.  We Will Survive Cancer went into action; Josie Valdez and Kimberly Wilde-Warfield, both on WWSC’s Board, organized a gathering of supplies to deliver to families in late March.  Kimberly Wilde-Warfield then organized the collection of amazing Easter Bunny items for Easter Baskets and socially distanced delivered them to families on the Saturday before Easter.  The idea was to make children smile and to give them something to enjoy on Easter. Then Julie Bates, Manager at Macy’s Ballston store, contacted me offering to provide gifts for Mother’s Day since WWSC cannot provide its yearly Mother's Day brunch.  Macy’s along with We Will Survive Cancer is providing special gifts to the care providers at Howard University Cancer Center.  Additionally, we are exploring alternative ways to raise money to help support the families we serve.  
The Savvy Event Guru: WWSC has been busy. WWSC is like the GIFT that keeps on GIVING.  Well my hope is that when everything settles with COVID19, WWSC will be able to get back to the business of planning and engaging in future events.

The Savvy Event Guru: So what’s NEXT for Gayela Bynum?

Ms. Gayela Bynum: – We Will Survive Cancer is not about me, has never been about me and will never be about me!  I don’t and have never had cancer but I have experienced the strength cancer patients and their families gather to fight this beast!  Michelle gave me a completely different perspective on how to live and die with grace – my hope is to live up to her charge (hopefully in the far distant future), but in the meantime, I will just keep on, keeping on, always hoping to increase our effort to provide for more cancer patients and their families!
**** To let you know,  NO ONE on We Will Survive Cancer’s Board is paid.  All monies collected are targeted back to the families – there are no admin expenses outside of paying for our Internet Services, paper and ink – accounting is done in-house. Money raised is NOT spent on travel or vacations.  ****

The Savvy Event Guru: Thank you so much Gayela for that disclaimer and information.  It's wonderful to know that there are organizations that truly focus on the needs of others.

The Savvy Event Guru: Gayela Bynum, it has been an absolute pleasure.  Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. I've learned a lot more about WWSC and all that you do. 

Ms. Gayela Bynum: Your very welcome, thank you for this opportunity to sit with you. 
The Savvy Event Guru:  For more information on (WWSC) We Will Survive Cancer Organization please contact Gayela Bynum-gayela@wewillsurvivecancer.org or gayelabynum@mac.com  202-257-7930 www.wewillsurvivecancer.org Also please check out "We Will Survive Cancer" on Facebook. 

Photo by Ms. Jackie Hicks, Make-up by Letitia Thornhill 
For More from The Savvy Event Guru check out Our website at www.thesavvyeventguru.com and also check us out on THE SAVVY EVENT GURU YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCe-Ya14sTzPi-1qzz3BSSWQ

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